October 2, 2012

As Delays Mount, Cuomo May Not Approve Fracking

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Only a few months ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) was set to approve hydraulic fracturing in New York State. But recent delays in the approval process may signal that Cuomo will not sign off on the practice because of pressure from environmentalists, according to The New York Times.

After a four-year-long review, the state announced on Sept. 20 that it will delay its decision until New York’s health commissioner can review the potential health impacts of “fracking” —  a controversial practice which involves injecting water and chemicals at high velocity into the ground to extract natural gas.

On Friday, state environmental officials said they will start over the regulatory rule-making process, requiring the state to hold more public hearings, soliciting more input from New Yorkers and almost certainly pushing a decision into next year, according to The Times.

The growing sense in Albany, according to The Times, is that Cuomo is “consigning fracking to oblivion” because of intense pressure from environmentalists. These groups and celebrity activists, who are concerned about the impact of the fracking on the water supply, have pushed for Cuomo to ban the practice outright. The opposition includes a number of individuals close to the governor, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longtime environmental activist and brother of Cuomo’s ex-wife.

In an interview with The Times, Kennedy praised activists across the state who have fought to ban fracking in their communities.

“[Cuomo] has a very good political antenna, and we’ve never seen anything like this in terms of grassroots power,” Kennedy said. “In 30 years, I have not seen anything come close to this, in terms of the mobilization of the grass roots. You’ve got 20,000 people in the state who consider themselves to be anti-frack activists. So I think that’s got to impact the political process all around.”

Kennedy also praised Cuomo for taking the time to carefully evaluate fracking’s impacts, noting that the governor has faced pressure from the natural gas industry as well as political leaders. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have both advocated for increased natural gas drilling to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, according to The Times.

“I’m surprised how long he’s withstood the tide,” Kennedy said of Cuomo. “I’m proud that he’s done that. There’s no other governor who’s just said ‘let’s hold off.’ And he’s under, I can tell you, tremendous pressure by the industry and by others.”

Original Author: David Marten