Vermont becomes first state to ban fracking

On Wednesday, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law to ban fracking for natural gas in the state, making it the first in the nation to adopt such a measure. The legislature's overwhelming decision in favor of the ban, made at a time when many other states are working to regulate fracking, communicates a clear message of concern about the risks associated with the process and the extent to which there remain many unknowns.

Because gas deposits in Vermont are thought to be scarce at best, and limited to the northwest part of the state, the new law is a largely symbolic victory over powerful industry advocates. But Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Group, underscored the impact of the decision by noting that it sends a strong message to the many other states taking on the gas and oil industry.

After casting his vote in support of the ban, Rep. David Deen told Stateline, “We don't want to allow (fracking) until we get the science straight. [It] is very poor at giving us assurances that ground water and surface water wouldn't be contaminated.”

Gov. Shumlin echoed these sentiments. "I hope other states will follow us," he told the AP on Wednesday. "The science on fracking is uncertain at best.”

For New York, where a moratorium is currently in place, the message Vermont has sent on fracking couldn’t be clearer: full environmental and health risks need to be completely evaluated before we can determine whether—and if so, how—to move forward.