State Decides More Time Needed To Study Fracking


State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Nirav Shah advised the Department of Ecological Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens on Feb. 12, that the DOH Public Health Review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing would need extra time for additional studies.

Shah took on the review, which began in September 2012, at the request of Martens to complete a health impact analysis, he said in a press release. Martens also asked Shah to choose the “most qualified outside experts” to aid him in the review.

“Fundamentally, I want to make sure that we have done the most thorough review possible, especially when it comes to public health concerns,” Martens said. “In addition, I want to ensure that the Department has the most legally defensible review so that when the Department issues its final determination on this matter, protracted litigation is avoided, whatever the outcome.”

A final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) will not be issued to the governor until the health review is complete and Dr. Shah’s recommendations have been received, Martens said. The issuance of permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing will not be delayed, however.

“If the DOH Public Health Review finds that the SGEIS has adequately addressed health concerns, and I adopt the SGEIS on that basis, DEC can accept and process high-volume hydraulic fracturing permit applications 10 days after issuance of the SGEIS,” Martens said.

Martens said the DEC would not proceed with this if the DOH review finds there is a public health concern that has not been accessed in the SGEIS or properly mitigated. Regardless, the scientific evidence will determine any outcome, he said.

NYPIRG Project Coordinator Eric Wood said that although he was alarmed by Martens’ assertion, he commends Shah and Gov. Cuomo for recognizing how critical thoroughly investigating the health consequences of hydraulic fracturing is.

“New York is still very far from completing due diligence on this issue, and we are alarmed by Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Martens’ assertion that he still may choose to finalize the environmental review (SGEIS) and allow fracking to move forward based on the results of the ongoing limited, secretive health review,” Wood said.

Although the results of the health review have yet to be released, Wood said the environmental impacts fracking can cause are water pollution, release of harmful chemicals such as benzene and toluene and noise and air pollution.  All can pose risks to human health as well as the environment, he said.

“Protecting the health of New Yorkers from the dangers posed by high-volume horizontal hydro-fracturing should be the State’s top priority in determining the future of fracking in New York,” Wood said.

While the DEC awaits the results of the Public Health Review, Wood said NYPIRG members will continue to fight fracking in New York and gain the interest and voices of other students and grab the attention of media. The focus will remain on Gov. Cuomo, Wood said, as he will have the final word on fracking laws in the state.

“Since the future of fracking in New York will most likely ultimately be decided by Gov. Cuomo, our main focus and the bulk of our resources will continue to be focused on pressuring the Cuomo administration through grassroots organizing, encouraging citizen participation and effective coalition work,” he said. “NYPIRG will act as a watchdog in Albany to monitor fracking-related legislation and take appropriate action.”