Winter 2015

State Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing: Free Riders and Federal Policy

Features

State Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing: Free Riders and Federal Policy

In December 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced a moratorium on the exploration and production of natural gas in New York State using hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” The decision was said to be based on a study by the New York Department of Health (DOH), but it was generally acknowledged that the decision and its timing were driven by political considerations. The decision to ban hydraulic fracturing is questionable for three reasons: the DOH study does not identify any actual harm; the decision elevates local concerns above national policy concerns and creates a “free rider” syndrome; and the decision underscores the difficulty of developing important national resources in a mixed federal/state/local regulatory regime.

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