The New York State legislature permanently banned fracking in its Fiscal Year 2021 Budget yesterday—one of several budget items that prioritize the health and future of New York’s people and environment. This measure comes five years after Governor Andrew Cuomo initially banned fracking in New York State, which, while monumental, was accomplished through executive action, leaving it vulnerable to jettison by future governors. Codifying the ban makes it permanent, protecting generations to come.
Fracking is a dangerous process that uses a mixture of water, salt, and thousands of toxic chemicals to extract fossil fuels like oil and gas from the earth. The thousands of chemicals used in fracking are harmful to human health, linked to cancer, mutations, and other adverse effects. The fracking process releases toxic pollutants into the air and sometimes drinking water, and is therefore especially damaging to people living in nearby shalefields.
On an even larger scale, fracking fuels the climate crisis, releasing methane at all stages of the gas extraction, transmission, and combustion process. Methane is a particularly dangerous greenhouse gas that is 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. By memorializing the fracking ban in state law, New York is demonstrating leadership against fossil fuels and making way for a clean energy transition.
New York’s new ban on fracking also institutes a moratorium on gelled propane fracking. While fracking typically refers to hydraulic fracturing, which uses water as the base fluid, gelled propane fracking uses gelled propane or liquefied petroleum gas as its base. Gelled propane fracking is as harmful to human and environmental health as hydraulic fracking. While the new law does not implement an outright ban on gelled propane fracking, it puts New York on track to do so in the future, and halts gelled propane fracking activity for the time being.
The ban on fracking, first by executive order and now codified in the state budget, is the product of years of hard-fought advocacy and organizing. Groups across New York State, from the Southern Tier to New York City, waged multi-year grassroots campaigns leading to Governor Cuomo’s 2015 executive action. Cuomo’s announcement was historic; it made New York the first state in the country with known gas reserves to prohibit fracking. It also led to multiple states, counties, and municipalities enacting similar bans and regulations. And now that the ban is codified, we can rest assured that this ban will last for generations to come.
While fracking itself is banned in New York, the fight is not over—gas pipelines still crisscross the state. The fight against proposed pipeline projects like the Williams Pipeline, which would transport fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York, continues. Williams faces strong community opposition and rebukes from both New York and New Jersey, but both states still must deny the pipeline critical certifications under the Clean Water Act to block construction from moving forward. Act now to ask New Jersey to deny water quality certification to the Williams Pipeline.
We thank New York State lawmakers for taking this bold action, especially at a time when the Trump administration is doing all it can to roll back public health and environmental safeguards. Memorializing New York’s ban on fracking in state law is a meaningful step in the fight against fossil fuels, which pose an existential threat to the health of New Yorkers, our environment, and our planet.
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