Governor Cuomo announced Tuesday that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would miss its November 29 deadline to finalize fracking regulations, which will require DEC to re-issue those regulations for an additional public review and comment period. At a press conference yesterday at the Javits Center in New York City, Cuomo said, “we want to make sure [fracking is] safe and we want to make sure the environment is protected, [and] people are protected, and that’s why we’re doing a health assessment.”
The “health assessment” Cuomo is referring to is a process committed to by DEC in September in which Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Nirav Shah, with the help of three public health experts, will review DEC’s analysis of fracking’s health impacts in its Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement.
Over 90 members of the medical community, over 500 elected officials in New York, numerous environmental groups including Riverkeeper, and thousands of New York residents have called on the Governor to complete a thorough study of health impacts. Cuomo’s process is not a comprehensive health impact assessment that includes input from the public and, in particular, potentially impacted communities, which would provide the basis for recommendations to prevent or mitigate such impacts. However, Riverkeeper urges the Governor to continue to stand up to pressure from industry lobbying groups and give state agencies adequate time to complete their review. On November 19, the Independent Oil and Gas Association released a letter to Cuomo detailing its disappointment that the Governor intends to allow DOH to complete its review of DEC’s human health analysis before allowing DEC to issue drilling permits. By refusing to cave to industry interests, the Governor is putting the public’s health above the gas industry’s bottom line.
Riverkeeper will continue to advocate for Governor Cuomo to abide by his promise to base his decision on facts and science, not politics, and to call for a comprehensive, transparent review of fracking’s health impacts that includes public input, along with a thorough review of its socioeconomic impacts and cumulative environmental impacts. Without a full understanding of the consequences for our health, our economy and our environment, it would be irresponsible for the state to make any decision about whether to move forward with fracking in New York.