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New York's fracking ban spurs debate in Pennsylvania

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Governor Cuomo's decision to ban fracking in New York is triggering discussion in Pennsylvania, where fracking is big business.  A reporter who covers gas development issues said the industry views Cuomo's action as an economic benefit, because drillers no longer have to fret about losing business to their northern neighbor. Marie Cusick of WITF, the NPR station in Harrisburg, tells WBFO some experts predict the New York ban will not affect Pennsylvania's gas development initiatives.

"I talked to an industry analyst. He said this will have little to no impact on the drilling business that’s already underway in Pennsylvania and Ohio," said Cusick. "Companies have spent billions of dollars, invested a lot in infrastructure. It’s very expensive to get going and do this, so New York has just kind of been a non-entity  in this shale boom since the beginning."

Pennsylvania voters recently elected a new governor who will take office in January. Tom Wolf ran on a platform of taxing natural gas drillers as a revenue-generator for schools and other key services.  Still, Wolf has also talked about imposing additional safeguards, including the creation of a public health registry, in light of some environmental issues that have been raised in New York.

"He says he wants stronger regulations. But he said he thinks New York made the wrong decision, and  he thinks fracking is safe and that it could really help Pennsylvania's economy," Cusick said.

Both sides of the fracking debate in Pennsylvania are finding some reason to celebrate Cuomo's decision to ban the practice, she added.

"The environmental community that’s concerned about the risks associated with gas development, they really felt that that was like an affirmation of what they’ve been saying – that there are risks, and it poses potential health threats," she said. "Meanwhile, the industry basically says New York’s loss is Pennsylvania’s gain – we don’t have to worry about business headed north over the border anymore."