Gov. Andrew Cuomo debated the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing today, but he said the state has yet to reach a conclusion on the controversial drilling practice — which has been on hold for nearly five years.
“We understand the economic benefits. What are the health and environmental consequences? And that’s what we are studying,” Cuomo said today on “The Capitol Pressroom,” a public radio show. “And that’s not a little question, it’s a big question and it’s a controversial question. And we’re trying to substitute information for emotion.”
Hydrofracking has been on hold in New York since 2008 as state regulators review the potential environmental impacts of the drilling technique. The prime spot for hydrofracking would be in the Southern Tier, which sits above the gas-rich Marcellus Shale.
Cuomo has been waiting on a review by the state Department of Health, but the department’s research has dragged on for months, with no details on when it would be finished or what is currently being studied. In February, Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said he would complete his review of hydraulic fracturing and shale-gas drilling in the “next few weeks.”
Asked about the delay, Cuomo said, “We don’t have an update at this time from the Department of Health.”
Cuomo, a first-term Democrat, has been caught between pressure from environmentalists to ban hydrofracking and the gas industry that wants to tap into the region’s energy supply. And voters are split: A Siena College poll Monday showed 41 percent of voters supported fracking and 42 percent opposed — consistent with the divide found in myriad polls in recent years.
Cuomo has sought to rebuild the upstate economy, and the Southern Tier has suffered among the worst job losses in the state. Cuomo warned that hydrofracking could help certain areas — if the communities wanted the drilling — but wouldn’t be a panacea for the whole upstate economy.
“If we approved hydrofracking today, that is not in and of itself going to change the trajectory of the upstate economy,” Cuomo said. “We still need to do reducing taxes, tourism, more manufacturing, building off the SUNY centers upstate.”
Still, Cuomo didn’t rule out that fracking would move forward. He has repeatedly said the state’s decision would be based on facts, not emotions.
“There’s no reason why hydrofracking in those places couldn’t be conducted as part of this economic agenda that we have. We have a very regionalized economic agenda,” Cuomo said. “In the places where hydrofracking could work, great.”