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State may OK 'fracking' near Pennsylvania line; Eyes Broome County, 4 others for permits

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is considering a plan that would allow natural-gas drilling by hydraulic fracturing in five counties near the Pennsylvania border, an administration official said.

Permits would be issued only in areas where residents support drilling, according to the official, who requested anonymity because the proposal isn't final.

Under the plan being discussed by the Cuomo administration, the process known as "fracking" would be allowed only in Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties, if local governments agree to it, the administration official said.

The New York Times reported the counties under consideration for permits Wednesday.

New York placed a moratorium on fracking in 2010 so state regulators could conduct an environmental review and develop rules. The review is slated to be released in the next few months.

"No final decision has been made, and no decision will be made until the scientific review is complete and we have all the facts," Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said.

Cuomo has been under pressure from energy companies and some localities to allow drilling so it can spark the type of economic development seen in states from Wyoming to West Virginia that have cashed in on fracking.

Environmentalists have pushed back, delivering thousands of letters to Cuomo's office urging him to ban the practice as the Environmental Protection Agency studies the effects of fracking on drinking water and plans national regulations.

New York sits on the northern edge of the Marcellus Shale, which may hold enough natural gas to supply the U.S. for two decades, according to Terry Engelder, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Fracking, which involves forcing millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand underground to break up shale rock and free trapped gas, has been banned in more than 20 towns in New York, according to Karen Edelstein, a geographic information-systems consultant in Ithaca.