Research & Commentary: Hydraulic Fracturing Ban in New York State

Published August 31, 2012

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares to decide whether to allow hydraulic fracturing in New York State, extreme environmental activist groups are pressuring him to ban the technique, which they say threatens the public health. Cuomo faces similar but opposite pressure from the state’s unemployed workers, as hydraulic fracturing has already created significant levels of economic activity in many other states.

The chief concern alleged by New York hydraulic fracturing opponents is that use of the gas-exploration technique would immediately put drinking water at risk, despite the numerous testimonials of state and federal regulators—including EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson—that there is not a single documented case of groundwater contamination due to hydraulic fracturing.

A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection air sampling report for gas exploration activities in the Marcellus Shale formation in northeastern Pennsylvania did find concentrations of methane and other associated compounds in the air near Marcellus Shale drilling operations. However, the study did not find concentrations of any compounds associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities that would trigger air-related health problems, suggesting the problems are unrelated to fracking.

On September 7, 2011, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released its highly anticipated Revised Draft of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program. The 1,537-page report states hydraulic fracturing would create 24,795 direct construction and production jobs under an average development scenario, with an additional 29,174 jobs created indirectly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York recently suffered the nation’s largest year-over-year increase in its unemployment rate, which as of July 2012 was 9.1 percent.

The evidence of potential environmental or public health harm directly caused by hydraulic fracturing is minuscule, and the evidence of its economic benefits is substantial. A fracking ban would deprive the state of much-needed jobs and tax revenues to pay for essential services.

The following documents provide additional information about the safety and benefits of hydraulic fracturing.

Research & Commentary: Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) of Natural Gas
Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James M. Taylor provides a primer on hydraulic fracturing, discussing the overstated environmental impact and providing useful links to additional research on the topic.

The Economic Opportunities of Shale Energy Development
A study by the Manhattan Institute finds that a typical Marcellus shale gas well generates $4 million in economic benefits for every $14,000 in economic damage from environmental impacts. The study also qualifies the economic benefits of different development scenarios.

Drilling for Jobs: What the Marcellus Shale Could Mean for New York
The Public Policy Institute of New York State finds that allowing Marcellus shale development in a five-county area outside of the New York City watershed could create more than 62,000 new jobs. The report notes the economic benefits already being realized in Pennsylvania and encourages New York to responsibly develop its resources.

Science and the Reasonable Development of Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Resources in Pennsylvania and New York
Practicing litigators analyze standard of proof and baseline groundwater monitoring in hydraulic fracturing litigation and its implications for determining the appropriate level of regulation. 

State Regulators on Hydraulic Fracturing
The research and public outreach campaign Energy in Depth collected testimonials from numerous state regulators from all over the country, each of whom concluded the hyped-up claims of environmental or public health risk from hydraulic fracturing were unsupported.

New York Voters Back Fracking, Despite Concerns, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds
An August 2011 poll found that even though New York residents are concerned about the environmental impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing, they are eager to reap the economic benefits. The Truth About Fracking
Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie interviews Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey about the environmental risks and economic benefits of hydraulic fracturing. Bailey says New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is wrong to claim federal agencies that have allowed fracking have not adequately studied the issue.

For further information on this subject, visit the Environment & Climate News Web site at, The Heartland Institute’s Web site at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

Nothing in this message is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. If you have any questions about this issue or the Heartland Web site, you may contact Heartland Policy Analyst Taylor Smith at 312/377-4000 or [email protected].