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Columns

February 19, 2013

Cuomo, Obama aren't necessarily environmentalists

(Continued)

Cuomo is faced with the same dilemma as he continues to put off a decision on fracking in the Marcellus Shale in New York state. Last week, yet another delay was announced when the state health commissioner said he needed more time to complete a study of the health impacts of fracking.

Fracking is controversial because drillers send a high-pressure toxic cocktail into the shale to free natural gas. The process also allows drillers to free gas horizontally. Fracking threatens aquifers used for drinking water, and the wastewater that comes to the surface afterward is more toxic than what was sent down, creating a problem for safe disposal.

In a letter to Joseph Martens, Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, last week, Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said “the DOH Public Health Review will require additional time to complete based on the complexity of the issues. My team and I will be in Pennsylvania and Washington in the coming days for first-hand briefings on these studies and their progress, which will assist in informing the New York review.”

Shah said he would be reviewing recent studies focusing on links between fracking and health impacts on drinking water, as well as other areas such as air quality and community impacts.

The state has been studying the fracking issue for years, and Shah’s investigation is considered a deciding piece is a process that will allow fracking under strict state regulation or ban it altogether.

While it is great that the DEC would at least wait for the public-health study before issuing a final environmental impact statement and making a decision on fracking regulations, comments last week by Martens were disturbing.

Reacting to Shah’s letter asking for more time, the DEC chief said, 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.”

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