Key Deadline Looms as Progress of Fracking Review Is Murky

Friday, October 19, 2012

The state’s environmental commissioner for the first time commented in depth about a new health review that has once again delayed a decision on hydro fracking in New York.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said the agency now has additional information on the health impact of exposure to chemicals used in fracking and possible air pollution from generator and pump emissions.

But the data cannot be released until the health commissioner finishes his review.

Martens issued a statement in late September saying the state’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, would conduct a review of health impact data compiled by the Department of Environmental Conservation.  

He said he didn’t know when that would happen. But under the new plan, Shah must still choose outside experts to help him, and Martens said those yet-unnamed experts haven’t signed contracts with the state to do the review.

 “It’s not 100 percent certain at this point what the exact scope is going to be,” he said.

If the whole health review process takes more than six weeks, then Martens will run up against a key November 29 deadline.  If the environmental agency does into have its rules in pace for fracking by then, then it has to start that part of the process over. That means there could be another opportunity for public comment, and more reports to be written.

Martens says he doesn’t know right now if that deadline will be missed, and cause further delays. He says it’s “to be determined.”

Some landowners with gas drilling leases are growing impatient. They protested, chanting “No more delays!” at the Capitol on October 15.

Senator Tom Libous, who represents Binghamton, in the Southern Tier region centered in the Marcellus Shale, said he is eager for fracking to begin.

“The economy of the Southern Tier and Upstate New York depends on it,” Libous said.   

Libous predicts that the “science will dictate” that it can be done safely. And he says there’s no need to drag out Shah’s health review. He says the Department of Health has been privy to that information all along.

“I think they’re well aware of what the impact is,” Libous said. “I think the studies are done.”

Martens says that’s not true.

“It’s not done because we’ve asked Dr. Shah to review it,” Martens said.  “He may come back and say ‘You need to do additional work.’”

Meanwhile, environmental groups who oppose fracking are frustrated by what they say is a the lack of transparency.

Alex Beauchamp, spokesperson for New Yorkers Against Fracking, said it doesn’t appear that the health study will be very comprehensive or independent .

“I think it’s really worrisome,” said Beauchamp, who says there’s a danger that the study could be a “sham” or a “rubber stamp.”

Cuomo, who has appointed Martens and. Shah, has made a policy of staying above the day-to-day details of the lengthy review on fracking.

“There’s politics for it, there’s politics against it,” said Cuomo. “We want to make a decision on the merits.”

Cuomo has also said the decision will be made based on “science and facts.” Right now, no one is in his administration can say exactly when all of those facts will be collected. 


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Comments [3]

jason carney from nyc

PA publid safetly has no idea what it has enabled. the water treatment facility system of western PA is not able nor equiped to filter these chemicals associated with fracking that are enevitably entering the watershed. these chemicals as tested on humans have very limited data as to the effects on health long term or short. It is only prudent and pragmnayic that at least one responsible state in the east would seek out the ultimate facts and figures before diving headlong into the unknown no matter what PA is doing. In the long run if prices of the before mentioned valued commodity is so great it can only increase upon such a delay. grow up and see things for what they are; lasting beyond your logic and lifetime.

Oct. 20 2012 10:08 PM
Paul Shapiro

@Bob from NJ At the beginning the drilling companies will be diligent and all will be well. How ever, after a short period of time, the over sight agencies will become complacent and cozy with the companies they are tasked to regulate. Over sight will become lax and slowly over time the drive for increasing the bottom line will become the driving force. Safety will be one of the first short cuts taken and in relative short order minor accidents will start occurring. That's the first sign that it's only a matter of time for the series of major disasters will occur.

When the water supply of upstate NY becomes unsalvageably polluted, never to be used again, farms abandoned and the town are forced to become ghost tows. The families forced to be displaced and never able to become financially stable. I can ramble on and on but Bob of NJ you can fill in the rest of the disaster.

How many times in my lifetime and how many times in your lifetime have you seen the movie. I have learned from all of these tragedies driven by greed. I guess you haven't learned the lesson. I guess the only way you will learn is if the resulting tragedy strikes your life!!!

Bob of NJ, it's a dumb bird that does not learn from someone else's tragedy!!
I wish you well, and have a nice day, ya' hear!

Oct. 20 2012 09:32 PM
Bob from NJ

While other states, like PA, are cashing in on jobs and increased economic activity NY state is unnecessarily and irresponsibly delaying a proven clean and effective way to grow the economy and help us become energy independent. The price of natural gas is now so low that cos. are not drilling many new wells and NY has lost out on the development due to foolish politicians and misguided enviro wackos. Where's all of that upstate development that Sens. Clinton, Schumer & Gilibrand promised?

Oct. 20 2012 09:02 AM

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