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Officials: Hydrofracking won't be allowed in NYS

Posted at 11:28 AM, Dec 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-17 18:37:30-05

State officials say hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as hydrofracking, will not be allowed in New York State.

The state has prohibited the practice since 2008 pending environmental studies and a long-awaited study from the state Health Department is expected by the end of the year. The acting health commissioner gave an update Wednesday during a public meeting of Governor Andrew Cuomo's Cabinet, saying he could not support it.

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker says there are red flags in current research and not enough existing research to prove or disprove adverse health effects from hydrofracking, adding because of those concerns, he would not let his family live in an area with hydrofracking.

“I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered,” said Dr. Zucker. “I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done. I asked myself, ‘Would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”

Hydrofracking, which frees gas from deep rock deposits by injecting wells with chemical-laden water at high pressure, will not be allowed in the state, and the DEC says it wouldn't be allowed in many area anyway.

In its six-year long study, the DEC said it examined the 12 million acres of the Marcellus shale area in the state to determine where hydrofracking would be allowed.

For starters, hydrofracking would only be allowed 2,000 feet below the surface and in areas outside of primary and principal aquifers and the NYC and Syracuse watersheds. It would not be allowed in state parks, Catskill park or historic districts, and there are several towns that have already banned the process.

Though some towns don't have zoning, around two-thirds do, and those towns would have to decide if hydrofracking would be allowed in their town, further complicating the issue.

The DEC says ultimately, with all the reductions, drilling wouldn't be allowed in around 63 percent of the Marcellus shale region outright, with an untold number of acres also removed.

Governor Cuomo has repeatedly said that he is bound by the experts, which he repeated on Wednesday.

"This is not a layman's question," Cuomo said, adding that he is a lawyer, not a scientist, doctor or environmentalist.

"All things being equal, I will be bound by what the experts say."

The DEC will issue a legally binding environmental impact study in early 2014, prohibiting hydrofracking.

Governor Cuomo says he expects lawsuits over the findings, and says this is an emotionally charged issue no matter which side of the aisle you fall on. He says on one hand, everyone wants job, but on the other, no one wants a dangerous public health situation.

He says that's why he left the decision on hydrofracking up to the experts.

The DEC said it received around 260,000 public comments over the course of its study of hydrofracking.