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DEC On Fracking: "Not In New York"

Environmentalists are welcoming the official end to the years-long fracking debate in New York. 

State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens released a 43-page “Findings Statement” Monday afternoon, which effectively prohibits high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Empire State.

In it, Martens writes: "After years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts, prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative. High-volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated. This decision is consistent with DEC’s mission to conserve, improve and protect our state’s natural resources, and to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state."

The preliminary decision was first announced in a year-end cabinet meeting in mid-December.  John Armstrong with Frack Action credits the ban with setting an example.  "By banning fracking, Governor Cuomo has led the nation on public health and the environment, which is already reverberating around the nation and the world, as more and more places say no to fracking, including Maryland this May and Lancaster, England just today."

The state had been reviewing the fracking process dating back to 2008, years fraught with volumes of  polls, studies, reports, demonstrations, rallies and protests pro and con, as debate raged on over the possible impact hydrofracking might have on earthly resources, plant and animal life and public health.

Jay DiLorenzo, president of the Preservation League of New York State, is relieved the fracking threat has been neutralized.  "We've been very concerned about proposed industrialization of New York States' rural landscape and we've really taken a strong stand for the protection of the New York's historic and cultural assets."

Drillers do not agree: the American Petroleum Institute's executive director Karen Moreau responded publicly with a statement saying "The governor’s constrained path maintains the status quo on economic development – costing the Empire State."

But with DEC's proclamation, Deborah Goldberg, the managing attorney of Earthjustice's Northeast regional office, sees New York's forseeable future as "frack free."  "This is literally one year to the day from when New York's highest court ruled that localities can keep oil and gas development out of their borders. So today we have a double celebration:  the power of local communities to protect themselves, and the influence that those local communities had on the final decision, which you can see by the references to the Dryden case throughout the findings statement."

In September of 2011, a gas exploration company sued the Town of Dryden, in a bid to force the town to accept industrial gas drilling — including fracking — within town limits. Officials fought the suit tooth and nail.  The state supreme court ruled in favor of Dryden in February of 2012. In May 2013, a four-judge intermediate appellate court ruled unanimously in favor of the town. Legal battles might have continued, but for the December 17th announcement by New York State acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker:  “I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York.”

The DEC says its Findings Statement concludes that there are no feasible or prudent alternatives that adequately avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts and address risks to public health from this activity.

To view the Findings Statement, visit DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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