New York will be the second state to join Vermont in issuing a complete ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the ban after a health report raised too many questions about the safety of the process.
Fracking blasts a large volume of water mixed with sand and chemicals into a well, cracking open rock formations to extract gas and oil. The process is controversial and highly debated. Environmental groups are concerned that fracking can contaminate nearby drinking water and worsen a region’s vulnerability to earthquakes.
According to L.A. Times, the report cites evidence showing that fracking can significantly affect groundwater, climate and air quality. “Many of the published reports investigating both environmental impacts that could result in human exposures and health implications of [fracking] activities are preliminary or exploratory in nature,” the report states, according to L.A. Times. “However, the existing studies also raise substantial questions about whether the risks of [fracking] activities are sufficiently understood so that they can be adequately managed.” There is also evidence linking fracking to birth defects, low birth weigh and congenital birth defects in relation to how close the mother is to a fracking site.
“I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, acting commissioner of the N.Y. Department of Health, according to L.A. Times. “I asked myself, would I let my family live in a community with fracking? The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”
“The potential risks are too great, in fact not even fully known, and relying on the limited data presently available would be negligent on my part,” Zucker stated.