Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Environment, Economics and Politics

Reader 1

Emil Morhardt

Reader 2

Thomas Kim

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© 2015 Alexandra M. Frumkin

Abstract

Hydraulic fracturing has become increasingly popular in the United States during the last ten years. It is a process that is used for the majority of new oil and gas wells, and is used to access the abundance of natural gas in the US. The largest shale bed is the Marcellus Shale which spans the area underneath many states in the Northeast, primarily New York and Pennsylvania. Policy and science have failed to keep up with the boom in fracking that has occurred across the US, which has led the process to be regulated at varying levels of stringency and a lack of understanding of the potential risks associated with fracking. New York decided that the potential adverse effects of fracking outweighed the economic benefits of job creation and increased tax revenue. New York was the 2nd state in the US that banned fracking, and the decision can be attributed to the unique environmental and political factors present. There were six major environmental reasons that New York decided to ban fracking: decreased respiratory health, drinking water contamination, soil contamination, seismic activity, climate change, and boomtown economic effects. Drinking water contamination is especially important in New York because New York’s reservoirs provide water for over 17 million people. These six environmental factors are not unique to New York, but their impact would be more widely felt than in many other states where fracking occurs. The political factors in New York are also critical to understand. New York is a blue state that is being governed by Governor Cuomo who after his re-election desperately needed to re-align with the left wing of New York’s democratic party. The analysis completed in this paper demonstrates that New York is unique in many ways and the decision to ban hydraulic fracturing there may not be easily replicable in other states.

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