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New York bans fracking because of uncertain health effects

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'This is the first state ban with real significance'

Kenneth Gabrielsen/Getty Images

New York state officially banned fracking today, following a six-year-long moratorium on the practice. The ban means that New York is the largest region in the US to reject the economically advantageous practice for fear of increasing its inhabitants' exposure to various health risks.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the decision following the release of a report from the state health department earlier this week, reports ProPublica. It outlines the "significant uncertainties" regarding the potential health effects of hydraulic fracturing — a process by which sand, water, and various chemicals are injected into the ground to extract natural gas from shale rock deep underground. The report ultimately concluded that these uncertainties warrant a ban — one that would remain in place until scientific studies can accurately determine the level of risk that fracking poses to public health.

"the cumulative concerns of what I've read gives me reason to pause."

"We don't have the evidence to prove or disprove the health effects," said state health commissioner Howard Zucker during a presentation at Cuomo's year-end cabinet meeting. "But the cumulative concerns of what I've read gives me reason to pause."

New York isn't the first state to ban fracking; Vermont banned the practice in 2012. But given that Vermont doesn't actually posses a commercially viable source of natural gas, the move was symbolic, reports Mother Jones. "This is the first state ban with real significance," Kate Sinding, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Mother Jones. "My head is still spinning, because this is beyond anything we expected."