In a much-anticipated report, the New York State Department of Health has concluded that high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) should be banned statewide. In a nutshell, the Department found that there was insufficient scientific evidence that fracking was safe. The report stated in relevant part that the “overall weight of the evidence from the cumulative body of information contained in the [report] demonstrates that there are significant uncertainties about the kinds of adverse heath outcomes that may be associated with HVHF…” In view of this, the report concluded, “Until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from HVHF and whether the risks can be adequately managed, HVHF should not proceed in New York State.”

Reaction to the report was swift and predictable. Proponents of fracking in New York condemned the Department’s conclusion. For example, in a press release, the New York State Petroleum Council spoke of the “irresponsibility [of] issuing a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, putting the state’s economy on a reckless path and ignoring the needs of New York families, economic opportunity, job creation, revenue to the government and America’s need for energy security.” In hailing the report, Earthjustice, an environmental law organization that successfully represented the Town of Dryden in a fracking ban case in the Court of Appeals earlier this year, stated that “This is truly a monumental day. … Now all New Yorkers can enjoy the safety and peace of mind that the 80 New York counties that have banned fracking already have.”

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation announced that, based on the report, in January it would issue its Findings Statement pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), a legally binding recommendation prohibiting fracking.