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New York's Governor Says He'll Ban Fracking in the State

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"We can't afford to make a mistake."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his annual State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, in Albany, N.Y., January 8, 2014 (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (TheBlaze/AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration will move to prohibit fracking in the state, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique. But what do New Yorkers who live where the fracking would actually take place have to say about it all?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his annual State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, in Albany, N.Y., January 8, 2014 (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his annual State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, in Albany, N.Y., January 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

Quinnipiac University conducted a poll in August that found New Yorkers' opposition to Marcellus Shale drilling at "new highs." Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said they oppose the method because of environmental concerns, while 43 percent said they support fracking because of its economic benefits.

However, break those numbers down and you'll see that the majority of New Yorkers who oppose fracking live in New York City – obviously not where fracking could occur.

Broken down, 48 percent of New Yorkers living in upstate support fracking while 43 percent are in in opposition. Those living in New York City largely oppose the method, with 55 percent opposing it and just 35 percent supporting it. Meanwhile, voters in New York City's outlying suburbs narrowly support fracking by a margin of 47–45 percent.

Quinnipiac conducted the poll between August 14- 17 and questioned 1,034 New York State voters. The poll's margin of error is 3.1 percent.

Even so, Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said Wednesday that he was recommending a ban, and Cuomo said he would defer to Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in making the decision.

Zucker and Martens summarized the findings of their environmental and health reviews. They concluded that shale gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing carried unacceptable risks that haven't been sufficiently studied.

Martens said the Department of Environmental Conservation will put out a final environmental impact statement early next year, and after that he'll issue an order prohibiting fracking.

The gas drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation underlying southern New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, was made possible by fracking, or high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which releases gas from rock by injecting wells with chemically treated water at high pressure.

The drilling technique has generated tens of billions of dollars and reduced energy bills and fuel imports in the region. But it's also brought concerns and sparked protests, over air and water pollution, earthquakes, property devaluation, heavy truck traffic and health impacts.

New York has had a ban on shale gas development since the environmental review began in 2008.

Zucker said he had identified "significant public health risks" and "red flag" health issues that require long-term studies before fracking can be called safe. He likened fracking to secondhand smoke, which wasn't fully understood as a health risk until many years of scientific study had been done.

Martens noted the low price of natural gas, the high local cost of industry oversight and the large areas that would be off-limits to shale gas development because of setback requirements, water supply protections, and local prohibitions. He said those factors combine to make fracking less economically beneficial than had been anticipated.

Martens said the Department of Environmental Conservation will put out a final environmental impact statement early next year, and after that he'll issue an order prohibiting fracking.

Cuomo said the debate over fracking was the "most emotional" he has had to deal with as governor, topping even such hot-button issues as same-sex marriage and gun control. He said the issue led to some heated encounters with people on both sides of the debate. Within 30 seconds of talking about fracking with opponents, tempers typically flared, Cuomo said.

"They're not listening and they're not hearing and they're yelling," he said. "You speak to the pro-frackers, same thing."

Zucker said after studying all the analysis, for him it came down to one question: Would he want to live in a community that allows fracking? "My answer is, no" he said.

"We can't afford to make a mistake," Zucker said. "The potential dangers are too great."

Cuomo referred to Wednesday's presentation by his agency chiefs as "very factual," but said he's anticipating lawsuits being filed "every which way from Sunday" in an attempt to overturn the DEC's decision to ban fracking.

"Do I believe the facts will trump all emotion? No," Cuomo said.

And so far it hasn't. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) challenged Cuomo's decision Wednesday, calling today a "sad day for the future of the economy in Upstate New York, The Hill reported.

A worker checks a dipstick to check  water levels and temperatures in a series of tanks at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado, March 29, 2013. (Photo Credit: AP) A worker checks a dipstick to check water levels and temperatures in a series of tanks at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado, March 29, 2013. (AP)

“The governor continues to hide behind Albany bureaucrats and controversial scientific studies to stand against hardworking New Yorkers who deserve the job opportunities and economic growth fracking has clearly produced in other states, including neighboring Pennsylvania,” Collins said.

Meanwhile, environmentalists praised Cuomo's move.

“Mounting scientific evidence points to serious health risks from fracking operations,”  Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. “New Yorkers have made it loud and clear that we want to keep this reckless industry at bay."

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