frackingNew York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ended years of contentious debate Wednesday by announcing that the health and environmental risks of fracking were greater than the benefits and that the controversial method of harvesting natural gas would be banned in the state. An unofficial ban on hydraulic fracturing has been in practice in New York for more than five years.

During fracking, water and chemicals are injected at high pressure into subterranean rocks, forcing open fissures that contain oil or gas. It.has already been banned in dozens of municipalites in New York, with the blessing of the state’s Court of Appeals, which ruled that towns could use zoning ordinances to ban fracking.

Pros and cons

Environmentalists and others have opposed fracking on the grounds that it could damage watersheds and aquifers and have a negative effect on tourism and the quality of life in the affected communities. Another environmental concern: the large amount of water used in fracking.

The oil industry says fracking increases energy security and creates jobs. New York State shares the Marcellus Shale, a large subterranean deposit of trapped gas, with Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Karen Moreau of the American Petroleum Institute (API) accused Cuomo of acting irresponsibly.

A "reckless path"

New York State Petroleum Council Executive Director Karen Moreau today said Governor Cuomo acted irresponsibly, “putting the state’s economy on a reckless path and ignoring the needs of New York families, economic opportunity, job creation, revenue to the government, and America’s need for energy security.”

Moreau said regulations to protect the environment already exist – although oil companies have largely refused to disclose the type of chemicals they use in fracking, saying the information is proprietary.

Moreau pointed out that New York depends on natural gas produced “just over the border” in Pennsylvania.