In a major victory for people’s health and local communities, Governor Cuomo has banned fracking for oil and gas in New York State. The governor based this decision on sound science and thorough review, refusing to buckle under pressure from powerful oil and gas companies. His leadership will pave the way for other states that want to prevent reckless fracking and build a safer, more sustainable energy future.
People across the state will welcome this decision. A poll conducted by Cornell University earlier this year found that by a margin of nearly two to one, New Yorkers think the risks of natural gas drilling would outweigh the revenue. Many have made their concerns known from town halls to the state house. And dozens of New York communities have already put fracking moratoria or bans in place.
It’s not hard to see why.
Fracking operations have run roughshod over communities across the nation. Oil and gas companies have reached into our backyards and school fields, urban neighborhoods and wild places. They have installed frack pads and wastewater pits next to homes. And they have threatened people’s health.
Studies have shown dangerous levels of toxic air pollution near fracking sites. Oil and gas extraction has even caused smog in rural areas at levels worse than downtown Los Angeles. Fracking has been reported as a suspect in contaminated drinking water around the country. And pollution from oil and gas production has been linked to increased risk of cancer and birth defects in neighboring areas, as well as to a risk of increased seismic activity.
New Yorkers just had to look across the border to Pennsylvania to find out what it’s like to live next door to these threats. I traveled to several towns in Butler and Fayette Counties where fracking had upturned people’s lives. I spoke with people who described seeing their tap water turn brown, smelling gasoline and kerosene in the air, and feeling their houses shake day and night when wells were fracked. All of them worried about the health of their families. Yet they felt abandoned by state and federal agencies in charge of holding companies accountable.
New York officials studied these realities and examined the emerging science, and they made the right decision. Banning fracking will protect New Yorkers from reckless fracking and its hazards.
And now the state can move forward with generating energy from clean, renewable resources like wind and solar—resources that don’t release pollution, don’t spill, don’t foul our drinking water, and don’t run out. Now we can prioritize investing in clean energy projects that deliver good-paying jobs and preserve our air, water, and lands at the same time.
New York has been a leader on onshore wind power: the Maple Ridge wind project in Lewis County is one of the largest wind projects east of the Mississippi, creating clean energy and jobs in dairy country where extra revenues are welcomed. The state’s solar sector is also growing. In April, the New York State Public Service Commission pledged almost $1 billion to help install 3 gigawatts of solar power by 2023.
This is a great start, and the state can and should go further, faster in the coming year by locking in smart policies on renewable power and energy efficiency—policies that will help drive large-scale clean energy investments and projects, including wind power on land and offshore. We stand ready to support New York’s efforts to seize these opportunities.
I am proud our state decided to bypass reckless fossil fuel development in favor of safer solutions. Clean energy will help New York power our economy and protect our health at the same time, and the fracking ban will keep us moving in the right direction.