Note from FAN: Hydrofluoric acid is used in many fracking operations. It is injected deep into the ground to break up shale to release the gas. The news from New York today is an historic decision made in favor of the health and environment of all New Yorkers.
ALBANY — The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.
“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.
That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.
The state has had a de facto ban on the procedure for more than five years, predating Mr. Cuomo’s first term. The decision also came as oil and gas prices continued to fall, in part because of surging American oil production, as fracking boosted output.
The decision has been fraught for Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat.
In June 2012, he flirted with approving a limited program in several struggling Southern Tier counties along New York’s border with Pennsylvania. But later that year, Mr. Cuomo bowed to entreaties from environmental advocates, announcing instead that his administration would start the regulatory process over by beginning a new study to evaluate the health risks.
As months and years passed, the governor repeatedly suggested that the Health Department’s report was near completion, but its findings did not surface until Wednesday.
The delays angered environmentalists and oil companies alike. Advocates for fracking have argued that it could bring jobs to economically depressed areas atop the Marcellus Shale, a gigantic subterranean deposit of trapped gas that extends across much of New York State, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
But the governor has also faced strong opposition from groups worried about the effects of fracking on the state’s watersheds and aquifers, as well as on tourism and the quality of life in small upstate communities.
Dozens of towns and cities across New York have passed moratoriums and bans on fracking, and in June, the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that towns could use zoning ordinances to ban fracking. Opponents have also consistently protested at the governor’s public events and during his successful re-election campaign, where his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, called for legalizing fracking.