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Gov. Cuomo Bans Fracking in the Empire State

(CN) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned fracking - the controversial method to extract gas and oil from deep underground - in the Empire State, citing concerns that the process would lead to air and water pollution and harm public health.

Cuomo's decision, delivered at a year-end cabinet meeting in Albany on Wednesday, formalized a years-long de facto ban on fracking that predated the governor's first term. It also coincided with a report released by the state health department and a statement by acting commissioner of health Howard Zucker that he "cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York."

Environmentalists have upped their calls to ban the process, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas and oil trapped in deeply buried shale deposits, nationwide. Cities and towns throughout New York have already passed ordinances to limit or flat-out ban fracking, and the state's Court of Appeals ruled this past June that local governments have the right to use zoning laws for that purpose.

The Sierra Club called Cuomo's decision a victory for all New Yorkers.

"The Sierra Club applauds Gov. Cuomo for recognizing what the science has made consistently clear: fracking is a hazard to human health that endangers communities wherever it is allowed," the group said in a statement. "By banning fracking, Gov. Cuomo has set himself apart as a national political leader who stands up for people, and not for the interests of the dirty fuel lobby. Today's decision will shake the foundations of our nation's flawed energy policy, and we can only expect that it will give strength to activists nationwide who are fighting fracking in dozens of states and hundreds of cities and counties."

Last month, voters in Denton, Texas, passed that state's first ban on fracking - leading to a lawsuit by the Texas energy lobby just hours after the polls closed.

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