Hydraulic fracturing will be banned in New York state, it was announced on Wednesday.

The decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo follows years of debate over the pros and cons of fracking, and was based on health concerns.

A study by state health officials identified "significant public health risks" associated with the method of extracting natural gas and oil.

Acting state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker cited concerns about water contamination and air pollution and said there was insufficient scientific evidence to show that fracking is safe, the New York Times reported.

"The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not even fully known," Dr. Zucker told a cabinet meeting in Albany.

There has been a moratorium on fracking in New York since 2008, and local bans have been introduced in some communities on top of the state's restrictions. In June, the Court of Appeals ruled that towns could use zoning ordinances to ban fracking.

Vermont is the only other U.S. state to ban fracking outright.

Environmental groups welcomed the statewide ban in New York, but representatives of the oil and gas industry criticized the decision.

Karen Moreau, a New York official at the American Petroleum Institute, claimed that Governor Cuomo had "acted irresponsibly."

"Robust regulations exist at the federal and state levels nationwide for natural gas development and environmental protection. A politically motivated and equally misinformed ban on a proven technology used for over 60 years — throughout the country to great success — is short-sighted and reckless, particularly when New York depends on safely produced natural gas just over the border in Pennsylvania," Moreau said in a statement.