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Cuomo Declares: No Fracking for Now in NY

PHOTO: New York Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens presented Gov. Cuomo and his Cabinet with their reports recommending a continued ban on fracking for natural gas. Photo Credit: Office of the Governor.
PHOTO: New York Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens presented Gov. Cuomo and his Cabinet with their reports recommending a continued ban on fracking for natural gas. Photo Credit: Office of the Governor.
December 18, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. - In a long-awaited announcement, the administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday ruled the potential health and environmental risks of fracking for natural gas are too great and not enough is known about them to allow it in New York.

In extending a de facto ban on using pressurized water and chemicals to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation underneath New York's southern tier, the state's Environmental Conservation Commissioner and Acting Health Commissioner brought applause from Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney of the environmental law organization, Earthjustice.

"We enormously appreciate this administration is taking so seriously the health impact of the oil and gas industry in a way that, really, no other state has done," she says.

Goldberg represented the town of Dryden, which passed a zoning law banning fracking. The Cuomo administration noted that a court ruling upholding that ban, and the possibility of more local bans as a result, significantly reduced the economic potential to be gained from moving forward with fracking.

Goldberg points out the governor did not say flat-out, 'We know enough that we do not want fracking in New York.'

"I think he could have gone that far," says Goldberg. "He didn't go that far. But we are very, very happy New Yorkers will be spared the impact other people have seen around the country."

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker told the Cuomo Cabinet meeting Wednesday that existing studies raised concerns about high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or HVHF.

"Would I live in a community with HVHF, based on the facts I have now," asked Zucker. "Would I let my child play in the school field nearby, or let my family drink the water from the tap or grow their vegetables in the soil? After looking at the plethora of reports, as you see behind me and others that I have in my office, my answer is 'no.'"

Gov. Cuomo said he was nonetheless concerned about the economy in the southern tier of the state.

"I get very few people who say to me, 'I love the idea of fracking,'" says Cuomo. "Basically, they say, 'I have no alternative because there is no other economy for me besides fracking.' That's where I think we should turn; and what can we do in these areas to generate jobs, generate wealth?"

The governor said he expected there would be lawsuits filed by interests that favor tapping into the reservoir of natural gas underneath the state.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY