Skip to content

New York’s Fracking Ban Affirms Power of Grassroots Activism


January 7, 2015

Before New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide ban on fracking last month, dozens of small towns had already banned the practice in their municipalities. Due to the local bans and existing state restrictions, 63% of the Marcellus Shale was already off limits when the statewide ban was announced, muddling the economic boon forecasted by industry proponents and creating the type of political atmosphere for Gov. Cuomo to act decisively.

2014 Goldman Prize winner Helen Slottje played a major role in working with communities to pass local bans, providing pro-bono legal assistance to towns across New York. Slottje and her team celebrated a major victory when the New York State Court of Appeals ruled in their favor that towns could indeed use zoning ordinances to ban fracking.

The statewide ban was based upon findings from a years-long state health study that determined fracking posed “significant public health risks.” Gov. Cuomo highlighted the fact that the decision was not a personal one, but rather one made out of deference to his health and environmental conservation commissioners. He said, “I am not a scientist. I’m not an environmental expert. I’m not a health expert. I’m a lawyer. I’m not a doctor. I’m not an environmentalist. So let’s bring the emotion down, and let’s ask the qualified experts what their opinion is.”

And the opinion of the experts is that fracking is too risky to go forward. “The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not even fully known,” said acting state health commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker.

Environmental groups and anti-fracking activist hailed the decision and are hopeful that it will put pressure on other governors to take similar measures.

“It’s a real victory for people and democracy and the rights of communities for how they want to live,” said Slottje.

Related Posts

Stopping the Spill: How Oil Is Changing Our Earth

August 22, 2022 – By Jacqueline Kehoe

News headlines every few years can leave the impression that oil spills are rare, one-off events, like BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 or the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. In reality, they happen constantly: Over 700 million gallons of waste oil reach the ocean every year, destroying entire ecosystems and communities. Beyond its role in…

Read more

Indigenous Communities: Protectors of our Forests

August 8, 2022 – By Jacqueline Kehoe

It has now become widely understood in environmental circles that Indigenous groups around the world are often the best stewards of land conservation because of their longstanding cultural, spiritual, and physical connections to their territories. August 9, is UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a day that recognizes the unique role of Indigenous…

Read more

In Your Backyard: Urban Oil Extraction

June 13, 2022 – By Jacqueline Kehoe

For many Americans, oil drilling doesn’t feel like a hometown issue—it’s the concern of far-off places, from 2010’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “Urban oil extraction” can even sound like a myth. In reality, it’s happening in our own backyards. Once the first US oil well…

Read more