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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (R) greets fracking protesters outside his office in New York December 17, 2014. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

New York has become the first state to enact a ban against fracking despite sitting on rich natural gas deposits, a decision that goes against the energy orthodoxy of the rest of the United States.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the ban on Wednesday, which will prohibit fracking for natural gas. The governor cited unresolved health concerns and questionable economic benefits as reasons for the measure.

During a state cabinet meeting, Cuomo said he would defer to his environmental and health commissioners to recommend a ban on fracking. The state has had a moratorium on shale gas development since 2008 as it underwent an environmental review. Both commissioners concluded that shale development carried unacceptable risks that haven’t been sufficiently studied.

“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, acting New York State Health Commissioner. He equated fracking to second-hand smoke, the health risks of which were not fully understood until many years of scientific study were conducted.

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Fracking protesters sign a poster as they gather outside New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office in New York December 17, 2014. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said there are a number of reasons that make fracking less economically beneficial than had been anticipated, including the low price of gas and the high local cost of industry oversight. Additionally, large areas would be off-limits to shale gas development because of setback requirements, water supply protections and local prohibitions.

The Department of Environmental Conservation will issue a final environmental impact statement early next year. After that, the agency is expected to issue an order prohibiting fracking.

The Marcellus Shale – a rock formation that sits under New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia – contains large natural gas deposits of interest to oil and gas companies. The method for releasing the gas involves drilling vertically and then horizontally blasting the rock apart to release the gas using chemically treated water at high pressure.

The fracking method has yielded tens of billions of dollars of profits for oil and gas companies, and turned the US into an energy supplier rather than an importer. However the methods used have led to national protests and complaints over air and water pollution, increased earthquakes, property devaluation and health impacts.

Read more at RT News

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