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November 17, 2012

Hydrofracking impact review panel named

The Daily Star

---- — Staff Report

New York state took two steps forward and one step back this week in the long, slow march toward crafting regulations for hydrofracking. 

The state Health Department selected three experts Thursday to review an environmental study on shale gas development using hydraulic fracturing, moving forward a process already four years in the making.

The announcement came a day after the department said it could not speculate about when the health review would begin. 

And one of the panelists said the the group was not instructed to meet a Nov. 29 deadline that is key to the regulatory process. 

If the state Department of Environmental Conservation does not complete its regulations by that date, the regulations may have to be reopened to public comment. 

State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah was instructed to review a DEC report on hydrofracking in September. His review is nearing completion and will soon be sent to the panel, according to a spokesman from the Health Department. Permits for fracking can’t be issued until the report is finalized. 

The experts chosen for the health review were John Adgate, chairman of the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at the Colorado School of Public Health; Lynn Goldman, dean of George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services; and Richard Jackson, chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California Los Angeles’ Fielding School of Public Health.

Goldman told Gannett that the panel was given until “mid-February at the latest” to complete its review. 

Environmental groups blasted the news, criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo for failing to bring transparency to a process they say has been conducted largely in secret. 

“No one knows who completed the DEC’s study, what factors the DOH has considered in its initial review, and whether these three experts will truly have the independence and autonomy they need and deserve to do the job right,” Katherine Nadeau of Environmental Advocates of New York said Friday in a media release. “From a governor who promised transparency, this is anything but.”

A letter signed by 91 health professionals and scientists was sent to Cuomo on Thursday, saying there’s no indication the Health Department’s review will meet the standards of a full health-impact assessment.

“New York’s community of medical professionals reiterate our call for an independent, comprehensive health-impact assessment,” Dr. Andrew Coates of Albany Medical College said in a statement. “Nothing less than a transparent investigation with full public participation is acceptable.”