It is done: New York has officially banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the state's shale formations.
State officials announced their intention to ban high-volume fracking back in December, but they also said that they needed to complete a few steps to finish out the environmental review. That's done, and today, the Department of Environmental issued its findings statement
. The 40-plus-page long document includes a lot of history and explanation, but here's the passage stating the DEC's decision:
"In the end, there are no feasible or prudent alternatives that would adequately avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts and that address the scientific uncertainties and risks to public health from this activity. The Department’s chosen alternative to prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the best alternative based on the balance between protection of the environment and public health and economic and social considerations."
In 2008, when New York started talking about horizontal wells and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, nobody knew a thing about them. Now, it's really hard to go even a day without hearing about fracking's role in the domestic energy boom and fracking's potential to cause severe environmental damage. It's also crept into popular culture, just like the Alaskan Gold Rush and the Texas oil boom. You know you've hit the big time when The Simpsons spends an episode satirizing your industry.
But the many New Yorkers who fought hard against fracking need to keep something in mind: this is a permanent ban only until someone reverses it. A future governor could tell the DEC to conduct a new environmental review, and the outcome may not be the same.
It'd be silly to pretend that political and public pressure don't influence these types of high-profile reviews, when they clearly do. To ensure that the ban remains in place, fracktivists and their many allies will have to keep pressure on their elected officials.