New York Bans Fracking Based on Fearful Uncertainties, Not Science


Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has acquiesced to a ban of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale to produce natural gas in his state based on "uncertainties" concerning the possible effects of the activity on public health. Essentially, the New York Department of Health (DOH) report Cuomo cites defaulted to the precautionary principle:

When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

Or as the report asserts: 

Based on this review, it is apparent that the science surrounding HVHF [high volume hydraulic fracturing] activity is limited, only just beginning to emerge, and largely suggests only hypotheses about potential public health impacts that need further evaluation….

…the overall weight of the evidence from the cumulative body of information contained in this Public Health Review demonstrates that there are significant uncertainties about the kinds of adverse health outcomes that may be associated with HVHF, the likelihood of the occurrence of adverse health outcomes, and the effectiveness of some of the mitigation measures in reducing or preventing environmental impacts which could adversely affect public health. Until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from HVHF to all New Yorkers and whether the risks can be adequately managed, DOH recommends that HVHF should not proceed in New York State.

What sort of "evidence" did the DOH rely on for its ban recommendation? For example, the DOH study cited two epidemiological studies that purported to find adverse effects on birth outcomes near fracked wells. One found infants born closer to fracked wells had lower birth weights, but no increase in congenital defects. The other found an increase in congenital defects, but not lower birth weights. The DOH then noted:

Taken together, the relationship between maternal proximity to HVHF well pads during pregnancy and birth outcomes, if any, is unclear.

Well, yes. The DOH also reviewed a number of studies dealing with possible exposures to air pollutants from fracking and basically could find none in which pollutants exceeded regulatory limits. The DOH of review of the effects of fracking on drinking water supplies uncovered no substantial evidence for increased concerns about human health from that source.

The basic strategy of the DOH review seems to be to cite a bunch of studies—most of which find no significant problems or are inconclusive at worst—and then declare that their non-findings are insufficient to calm the regulators fears. Or as the report notes:

The actual degree and extent of these environmental impacts, as well as the extent to which they might contribute to adverse public health impacts are largely unknown. Nevertheless, the existing studies raise substantial questions about whether the public health risks of HVHF activities are sufficiently understood so that they can be adequately managed.

Pure precautionary principle. A simpler formulation of the precautionary principle is: Never do anything for the first time. Basically, ignorance can be used as an excuse to stop anything of which one disapproves. 

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  1. To be fair, there’s a lot of things I’d like to ban based on fearful uncertainties.

    1. Tax increases scare me. I’m uncertain and afraid of what will happen if we increase taxes.


      That felt good…

  2. New York has actually passed Cali to become #1 on my list of states I won’t consider when headhunters call. And shit like this is exhibit 2,425,728.

    In fact, NY and CA are the only two states I won’t consider working in, cause they’re just that shitty for bidness.

    Shame…western NY needs to secede. They just get hauled along from the ride from the dumbasses in Albany and NYC. Poor, dumb bastards…

    1. New York runs commercials all the time telling people that if they open a business in New York, the state won’t tax them for 10 years (or something like that).

      I bring that up all the time when people try to tell me that taxes don’t hurt businesses.

      Also, NY is Common Core central. Terrible place to be if you have kids.

      1. Yep.

        No joke. Some headhunters get it. Others…I kind of enjoy their perplexed response. But I never explain.

        “Well, see, I have like, 30 guns, and I have lots of cars and trucks and Jeeps? and dogs and cats and I like to do whatever….and these states make it hard for me to…LIVE. Much less do bidness. As a business manager, you know the shit they make you do at a state and local level that’s even DUMBER than what you’re already required to do nationally? DO YA??!”

        Nah – i just tell ’em thanks, and if they have anything literally anywhere else in the COUNTRY, I’m game.

        1. When your Workers Comp system is worse than Michigan’s and Ohio’s….ur doin’ it wrong…

            1. They’re #3 on my list, but they’re not quite to “will not work there”.

              Soon come

      2. Yeah, I’ve seen that commercial. Then they start listing off all the taxes they will waive for 10 years if you move to a selected zone.

        As they list off all of the taxes, I’m sitting on the couch thinking…we don’t have that tax or that tax here in Texas to begin with…

    2. I would refuse to live in NY, NJ, PA, MA, RI, CT, IL, IN, MO, OK, IA, MN, WI, NE, or KS. All for different reasons.

      1. Oops, forgot MI and OH.

        1. *crosses Juice off invite list for proposed charter residents of Libertopiaville, MI*

    3. Glad you won’t come here. Outside of the improvement, we’ll never know the difference.

  3. Fearful uncertainties? Like travelling Warp 10 and turning into giant horny salamanders?

  4. The cheering you hear is from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran….

    1. I’m picturing Robin’s minstrels….

      *and there was much rejoicing*

    2. And Texas.

      Let the progressive states get behind and stay behind. When Five Boroughs looks like Detroit, maybe they’ll see the error of their ways…Not.

  5. The stupidity of the Precautionary Principle is apparent because it is self-negating.

    If you subject any application of the Precautionary Principle to the Precautionary Principle, it cancels out and you can’t do anything.

    if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.

    Here, banning fracking risks economic damage, of course. But, because fracked natgas replaces coal for electrical generation, it creates the risk of coal plants, and all their health impacts, being kept online longer.

    Thus, unless and until fracking opponents can prove that stopping fracking will have no harmful effect, according to the Precautionary Principle, they can’t stop fracking.

    1. Or how about if you apply the Precautionary Principle to the Precautionary Principle itself? Kind of like when one applies the rules of Logical Positivism to…the rules of Logical Positivism.

    2. If they were rational and honest, they would just advocate that gas companies carry liability insurance to cover any new risks they create.

      And that would be the end of it.

      But no. They want to use any wild fantastical “risk” they can imagine in their fever dreams as a justification for total ban. Which proves they are dishonest shits who just want to ban stuff. They don’t care about the ACTUAL risks at all.

    3. Don’t many northeastern cities get their electrical power from the Ohio valley? If so, then they don’t care if West Virginia and Ohio get polluted.

  6. So basically the body of evidence indicates that this board of bureaucrats don’t know shit about it. And as we all know, when bureaucrats don’t know shit about what they’re regulating, it should be banned.

  7. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

    Because if we ban fracking and fuel prices shoot up that won’t be something the public bears.

    Have these protesters married their anti-GMO first cousins?

    1. Have these protesters married their anti-GMO first cousins?

      Uh. No. They have married their anti-GMO sisters.

    2. Proof of what, exactly?

      100% safety?

      So nobody should be allowed to do anything that carries even a miniscule risk, because they can’t prove it’s 100% safe?

      Let’s ban surgery. It might save lives, but it doesn’t have a 100% proven track record of success so … PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE!

      1. I heard from an oil man that surgery (at 3% risk of death) is more risky than current fracking technology. Consider the source…of course. But he helps make your point.

  8. One found infants born closer to fracked wells had lower birth weights, but no increase in congenital defects. The other found an increase in congenital defects, but not lower birth weights.

    Did the DOH (you know, the people with probably the best access to this data) consider the possibility that fracking has tended to be most heavily applied to poorer, rural, locations where you’d expect things like lower birth rates and more congenital defects (no, not making any inbred jokes)? It strikes me that the logical research would compare the same locations pre- and post- fracking.

    1. Science? Can’t have that.

    2. The “statistics” that are routinely used in the public health literature (at least the econometrics) often ignore things like endogeneity, serial correlation, and in the case here, spatial autocorrelation.

      Simply measuring the distance from a proposed harm ignores the fact that there may be some other harm at the exact same distance but in a different location that has explanatory power.

      The bottom line is that most public health papers are junk with shoddy econometrics.

      1. Do econometrics papers have shoddy public health?

        *Note: few people in health care have the slightest clue economics is actual field of study or anything involved with it.

    3. Progressives love science, just so long as you keep the variables down to one or two.

    4. What’s a confounder?


  9. The problem with the precautionary principle is that it fails to make any distinction between degrees of risk. ANY risk, however slight, however tenuously constructed, however lacking in “scientifically established relationships” between cause and effect is treated as a potential threat of a degree worthy of an outright ban on an activity.

    But, there is ALREADY a mechanism for dealing with risks that new activities impose upon others. There is an entire industry devoted to doing just that: liability insurance. If fracking poses some new risk, it should be completely adequate to simply require oil and gas companies to carry liability insurance that covers those risks. It might be slightly more expensive at first, if the uncertainty about those risks is greater, but over time as the risks become known, the price should drop in accordence. End of story.

    By opting for a total ban on an activity, regardless of the degree of uncertainty about the risks, advocates of the precautionary principle reveal themselves to be authoritarian luddites.

  10. Works for me who has monthly revenue coming in from fracking wells in Pa., WV, etc. To have no natgas coming out of NY will just prop up prices for what can be extracted in other states. Thanks, NY, and
    Merry Christmas.

    1. I suspect the collapse in oil and gas prices means there isn’t any profit in it any more. And thus no political price to be paid for the ban from Cuomo’s perpective. Throw the enviro-tards a bone because doing so is essentially cost-free at the moment.

      1. There is still some profit. My Limited Partnership has capped about 30% of its wells. If NY was up and running, the prices would drop lower and all but the lowest cost producing wells would probably be capped.

  11. “Pure precautionary principle. A simpler formulation of the precautionary principle is: Never do anything for the first time. Basically, ignorance can be used as an excuse to stop anything of which one disapproves. ”

    The precautionary principle is as anti-scientific as you can be and yet invariably anybody spouting it as a reason always claims to be pro-science. But of course, it’s always Science as Religion for them.

    1. The precautionary principle depends on complete illiteracy about statistics.

      They want to treat a 0.000001% probability with the same “precaution” as a 10% probability. Or a $1 risk the same as a $1,000,000 risk. they have no grasp of proportion or likelihood. Anything remotely possible is _equally_ possible.

      Actually I honestly think there are some people who are mentally incapable of grasping the idea of probability – specifically that all probabilities are not _uniform_.
      When some people hear that there is a random chance of some event happening, they automatically think that chance is 50/50.
      And no amount of arguing with them will make them understand that it’s not. They are mental defectives who can’t grasp statistics.

    2. This is a better example of the “Peter Principle” than the “Precautionary Principle”

  12. Why does anyone still live in that god-forsaken hellhole?

    Seriously, not trying to be a regionalist, but what the fuck is special about NY to endure this clown show of a gubmiint?

    Get out. GET OUT NOW.

  13. Look, you guys can frack in the rest of the country.

    We, here in NY, like our drinking water to be frack-free.

    So, go frack in Penn, North Dakota, and all those other places.

    If you are OK with Federalism, then you should be ok with a state doing what we please.

    1. Exactly.

    2. There’s a greater chance of something flowing down into your drinking water than flowing up through a mile or more of rock. Do you know about something called gravity?

  14. Precautionary Principal? This is Eco-Marxism pure and simple. Discredit without evidence. Put false suppositions in the popular narrative. Always used against private economic enterprise. Neonicotinoids and bees. Alexander Archipelago Wolves. SPOTTED OWL. LYNXGATE……

  15. Kelly `s st0rry is great, on thursday I got a top of the range Fiat Multipla from having made $5941 thiss month and-more than, 10k lass-month . it’s definitly my favourite work I’ve ever had . I started this three months/ago and pretty much immediately started bringin home minimum $70 per hour .
    hop over to here ==========

  16. Residing in NY, I can say that most here support the decision. Simply because the science as to the safety or danger of fracking isn’t proved either way, but there have been enough studies that show there is potentially a danger, from contamination of water supplies to even earth tremors. And if that’s the case, its better to be prudent, when that natural gas will still be there a few years into the future if things are proved differently, or if new technologies develop to remove it safely. And courts have already ruled that localities can ban fracking on their own anyway, as other states are now finding out.

    Good decision, Governor.

    1. By the way, he consulted many scientific studies, including one that summarized all of the studies in existence on fracking, and this is what SCIENCE said:

      “?96% of all papers published on health impacts indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.
      ?87% of original research studies published on health outcomes indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.
      ?95% of all original research studies on air quality indicate elevated concentrations of air pollutants.
      ?72% of original research studies on water quality indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination.
      ?There is an ongoing expansion in the number of peer-reviewed publications on the impacts of shale and tight gas development: approximately 73% of all available scientific peer-reviewed papers have been published in the past 24 months, with a current average of one paper published each day.”…..mos-conce/

      1. Do you really understand what you just posted? The fact that some percentage of studies say horseshit is not saying that the same percentage of horseshit risk obtains.

        1. I know exactly what I posted, although I doubt you know what it is you read.

          The point above was all about what SCIENCE says. Get it? And its clear that there is PLENTY of science that says there may be a real danger in fracking. Water pollution, air pollution, even tremors.

          Science is saying all that. Read what I wrote…the potential is there. Its why he banned it…and all with good reason.
          There now are plenty of people in Pa., Texas, and Ohio who believe there was reason to ban it.

    2. He is listening to science, you just don’t like what science says.

      1. Science doesn’t say anything. Evidence OTOH.

  17. Under what legal authority does Governor Cuomo ban fracking? Granted, the NY legislature isn’t much better, but should this be done through the legislative process rather than by decree?

    The evil party had better watch out. Sooner or later the stupid party will be back in power and will undoubtedly use the same tactics.

    1. Not only does he have the legal authority, individual localities now have the legal authority to ban fracking. Courts have ruled so. Its an old story…here, this one dates back to 2013…..-fracking/

  18. As 25 families in Ohio have been forced to evacuate their homes this week due to a lead at one well, one resident summed it up perfectly:

    “I’m not afraid of it. What I am afraid of is that we are going to embrace it so fast, so furiously that we will create too many sacrifice zones.”

    Good that the Governor of New York decided that the state would not be one of those sacrifice zones.…..-ohio.html

  19. I find it interesting that few, except those most knowledgeable in the natural resources business, understand the case for leaving resources in the ground when prices are heavily depressed. With the current price of oil, 50% of the Bakken reserves wells are not profitable. Oil sands projects are currently not being started because to break even they need an oil price approaching $100 a barrel. At $40 a barrel the entire oil sands industry in Canada will go belly up. Keystone pipeline anyone? The same holds true for NG fracking.

    NY is currently what, the 14th biggest economy in the world? What economic revenue would fracking in NY generate? Would it be 1% of the total state GDP? Why should we not wait? We are not Louisiana or Mississippi. We are not a third world country.

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