Cuomo Orders Fracking Ban

Andrew Cuomo’s many critics may find fault with him for vacillating on this issue until his reelection was in the bag, but he has finally acted to impose a ban on fracking in New York, per a report from the New York Times‘ Thomas Kaplan and Jesse McKinley:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of uncertainty over the controversial method of natural gas extraction.

State officials concluded that fracking, as the method is known, could contaminate the air and water and pose inestimable dangers to public health.

That conclusion was delivered during a year-end cabinet meeting convened by Mr. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

The question of whether to allow fracking has been one of the most divisive public policy debates in New York in years, pitting environmentalists against others who saw it as a critical way to bring jobs to economically stagnant portions of upstate.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who has prided himself on taking swift and decisive action on other contentious issues like gun control, took the opposite approach on fracking. He repeatedly put off making a decision on how to proceed, most recently citing an ongoing — and seemingly never-ending — study by state health officials.

On Wednesday, six weeks after Mr. Cuomo won re-election to a second term, the long-awaited health study finally materialized.

Kind of reminds me of a moment from New York’s distant political past, when the state placed its Democratic governor, Grover Cleveland, in the White House in an incredibly narrow victory over James G. Blaine that owed a lot to defections by anti-Blaine Republican “Mugwumps.” One of them, the famous cartoonist Thomas Nast, went through a variety of arguments for what “did it,” and then concluded: “No matter what did it, it’s done.” So, too, is fracking in New York, at least for the time being.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.