Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated Monday that his administration will take a “clear” position on high-volume hydraulic fracturing by the end of the year. The Cuomo administration says it will also release a long awaited Department of Health study regarding the public health impacts of fracking.

A statewide moratorium on the controversial drilling practice has existed for the last six years, but that may be about to change.

One possibility is an “in-between solution,” in which the Governor leaves the decision on fracking up to individual town boards. This could stop or heavily delay fracking in many New York communities.

Opponents of fracking say that communities without well-defined zoning ordinances, or who do not have strong local governments, could end up with fracking even if they don’t necessarily want it.

Elected Officials Call for a 3 to 5 Year Moratorium

Today in Syracuse, a statewide non-partisan group of more than 850 elected officials from all 62 counties, Elected Officials to Protect New York (EOPNY), released a letter calling on Governor Cuomo to enact a minimum three to five year moratorium on fracking.

“We need to be heard at this crucial moment,” wrote the elected officials to Cuomo. “We have reached out to you several times since our founding in June 2012, spurred by unprecedented levels of concern by our constituents over this industry. Their concerns, and ours, are well-founded and have not abated.”

The letter, from both current and retired elected officials, outlines “key areas of concern about negative impacts to public health, the environment, socioeconomic issues, [and] increasing evidence that drilling and fracking exacerbate climate change” and speaks to “the need for cumulative, comprehensive studies.”

What do New Yorkers think?

Over half, 56 percent, of residents oppose fracking in New York State, according to a survey commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Thirty-five percent of residents are in favor of allowing the practice.

The survey, carried out by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates (FM3) in September, had a +/- 4 percent margin of error.

Surveyors found that almost three-quarters, seventy-three percent, of New York State residents supported the current temporary ban on fracking until “scientific studies of its safety are conducted, and until the Department of Environmental Conservation creates rules to ensure fracking can be conducted safely.”

Therein lies the dilemma. Governor Cuomo has stated repeatedly that he will follow the recommendations of his about-to-be released Department of Health study. And if that study says there is a way in which fracking can be done safely, it is reasonable to assume the Governor will proceed.

Research for the Public to Consider

A number of studies have been released in recent weeks about the potential impacts of fracking.

Last week, “Concerned Health Professionals of New York,” which is led by Dr. David O. Carpenter, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, released a statistical evaluation of approximately 400 peer-reviewed studies on the impacts of shale gas development.

The group claims that 96 percent of all papers published on health impacts associated with shale gas development “indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.”

Fracking poses a real threat to local water supplies, the group argues. Almost three-quarters, 72 percent, of original research studies on water quality “indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination,” they report.

Concerned Health Professionals of New York is similarly urging Governor Cuomo to enact a three to five year moratorium on fracking. They have just updated and re-released their compendium of scientific, medical and media findings related to fracking.

Finally, a study released today by the NRDC found that a “growing body of scientific evidence shows that people both near and far from oil and gas drilling are exposed to fracking-related air pollution that can cause at least five major types of health impacts. This includes respiratory problems, birth defects, blood disorders, cancer and nervous system problems.”

The NRDC says they have conducted “the most comprehensive analysis of scientific studies to-date on the health impacts from fracking related air pollution.”

If not from fracking, where should our energy come from?

Residents surveyed by FM3 in September were asked which types of energy should be used more in New York. There is major support for increasing the use of renewable sources of energy, especially solar.

Here are the energy sources that interested New Yorkers most, and least.

  • Solar, 92%
  • Wind, 89%
  • Natural gas, 81%
  • Hydropower, 76%
  • Coal, 40%
  • Nuclear, 38%
  • Fracking, 29%


Tell us what you think about fracking and state energy policy, and we’ll keep you posted as events unfold in Albany.