By Fred Krupp
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a vindication for communities around the country that have been hit hard by unconventional natural gas production. For those in the energy industry who have shrugged off the environmental, health and safety concerns of fracking, Cuomo’s decision was the second rebuke in a little more than a month, following the recent vote to ban fracking in Denton, Tex. There have been a number of other bans and moratoriums across the country in the past couple of years: Mora County, N.M.; Boulder County, Colo.; and Dryden, N.Y., to name a few. These bans demonstrate what can happen when oil and gas producers erode public trust by brushing aside legitimate questions. Increasingly, regulators and the energy industry will be called upon to show that unacceptable risks from fracking can be minimized. Minimizing those risks requires strong, sensible regulation. Industry must finally recognize that it is in its own interest to work with regulators to make that happen.
I’ve seen firsthand the local impacts that have made fracking, as Gov. Cuomo put it, “probably the most emotionally charged issue that I have ever experienced.” As part of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board on shale gas in 2011, I saw that fracking’s environmental impacts are real and important health issues remain unresolved. In rural Pennsylvania, I met a mother who told me she had been forced to leave her family farm because of severe air pollution from shale gas wells. The pollution had made her young son ill. He was staying with friends; she was living out of her car. And due to natural gas operations in Pinedale, Wyo., the town of 2,000 residents has had to cope with smog rivaling that found in Los Angeles.Read more