Cuomo Administration’s Decision to Ban Fracking is a Big Win for New Yorkers, Grassroots Activists

Washington, D.C. – The decision by the top health official in the Cuomo administration to ban high-volume hydraulic fracking for shale gas in New York state is a huge win for New Yorkers, the environment and public health, EWG said today.

EWG has long called on the Cuomo administration to support a moratorium on fracking because of the potential dangers of this inherently risky drilling practice, which involves injecting chemicals and water into underground rock formations to extract oil and gas. Last year, EWG warned state officials that the state’s revised draft plan for fracking was flawed and did not go far enough to ensure that fracking could be conducted safely.

“We are thrilled the Cuomo administration has made the right call to ban risky fracking in the state of New York,” said Heather White, EWG’s executive director. “New Yorkers deserve the environmental and public health protections that this ban puts in place. This is a bold and important decision that will set the tone for state governments across the nation.”

The move comes on the heels of a decision by New York’s highest court to allow local towns to use their zoning authority to bar oil and gas drilling activities within their borders.

“This has been a hard-fought issue across the state and the country, from the ground to the court room,” added White. “We owe a big thank you to the grassroots activists in New York who worked tirelessly to raise awareness around fracking’s water quality and quantity issues. We owe a special thanks to Goldman Environmental Prize's brilliant lawyer Helen Slottje for all of her work to keep fracking out of New York.”

White also praised the long, hard work done by New York state scientists. “The experts dug deep into the issue and New York is honoring the results of their work – too many things can go wrong when pursuing this type of drilling.”

In 2012, EWG brought to light that one of Cuomo’s top advisors would have benefitted personally if the fracking moratorium had been lifted. Later that year, EWG sued the administration for failing to fully disclose public records of communications among the governor, his top officials and the oil and gas industry.

“Cuomo’s decision stands in stark contrast to Sen. Mitch McConnell and the leadership in Washington, who just this week said that their very first legislative action in the new year will be to force the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s president. “We expect Sen. McConnell’s move to be the opening volley in an aggressive assault on the environment and public health by the incoming Congress.”

Cook added, “We hope Gov. Cuomo’s action will inspire Sen. McConnell to reverse course and encourage Congress and the Obama administration to adopt comprehensive regulations that protect against the inherent risks of oil and gas drilling, starting with removing the many sweeping exemptions those practices were granted from major environmental laws.”    

Oil and gas practices that involve fracking are exempt from key requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, to name a few.

EWG believes that fracking should be banned near schools, homes and sources of drinking water, as well as on public lands. Oil and gas drillers should be required to disclose the names of all the chemicals used in their drilling operations, some of which have been associated with serious health effects, including cancer. The information should be made available to the public through a mandatory national registry of fracking chemicals, EWG said.