New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed an ignoble distinction this month: He became the first governor of a state with large deposits of natural gas to ban “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, the controversial but productive drilling technique that has reshaped the energy business in the U.S.

State regulators admit they have no proof that fracking has been responsible for many of the harms that motivated them to ban the practice. Strong rules can and should limit the risks. New York’s outright ban is justified only by extreme caution.

Domestic natural gas produces far more of New York’s electricity than any other source. In other words, the state is implicated in the fracking business. The benefits of burning the fuel are just too attractive. Cheap natural gas lowers energy bills. And, compared with the health and environmental harms from burning coal, the most immediate substitute for natural gas, a sensible environmentalist would choose fracked gas any day.

Natural gas is still a fossil fuel that affects global carbon dioxide levels. But it can be an important part of a transition to more sustainable fuels.

Fracking’s risks concern water and air contamination. States such as Colorado have developed rules with sensitivity both to industry and to environmental concerns. The Obama administration is developing its own, national fracking rules, too. That’s the model to follow – not New York’s.