New York Bans Fracking After Health Report

New York governor Andrew Cuomo's administration said on Wednesday it will ban hydraulic fracturing in the state after a long-awaited report concluded that the oil and gas production process poses health risks.

New York Environmental Commissioner Joseph Martens said Wednesday he will issue an order early next year, extending a six-year-old halt to fracking in the state.

Martens made his comments after the state's Health Commissioner, Howard Zucker, said there is not enough scientific information to conclude that fracking, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into a well to extract oil or gas, is safe.

"The potential risks are too great, in fact not even fully known, and relying on the limited data presently available would be negligent on my part," Zucker said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, answering questions from journalists, said the decision on whether to allow this kind of drilling in New York was up to Martens.

The ruling ends what has been a heated debate in New York over the benefits and pitfalls of fracking. Many in the state saw gas drilling as a key economic resource while others argued it was too dangerous. New York sits atop a part of the Marcellus shale, one of the largest gas deposits in the United States.

It also marks a defeat for energy firms which have leases in the state but until now have not been able to drill.

Cuomo said it was "probably the most emotionally charged issue I have ever experienced," more than gay marriage, gun control or the death penalty.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany and Scott Disavino and Edward McAllister in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish)