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Will New York Base Its Fracking Decision on Science or Politics?

New York officials say the state’s decision on fracking will not be made until after they hear from the three outside experts they’ve hired to help them review fracking’s impact on public health.

Do you trust them?

Before you answer, consider these facts:

  • Dr. Lynn Goldman, one of the three health experts hired to review the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), has told a reporter that the deadline to complete her review is today, despite being under contract through mid-February.  Dr. Goldman also stated that as of Thanksgiving, she hadn’t even received the documents she was charged with reviewing.  The New York State Department of Health has not yet responded to Riverkeeper’s request for a clarification of the review procedure or timeline.
  • Of the three experts, one is working pro bono and the other two will be compensated for only 25 and 50 hours of work respectively.
  • Rather than wait until they’d received and considered the experts’ analysis of the health issue, the state officials went ahead and released a new draft set of fracking regulations last Friday.
  • Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently warned that we don’t understand fracking’s impact on human health and called for studies that “include all the ways people can be exposed, such as through air, water, soil, plants and animals.”

    Governor Cuomo has acknowledged that the state has not earned the people’s trust on the fracking issue. DEC Commissioner Martens admits that the state wants to use the outside health review to strengthen his hand in the litigation that will follow the state’s decision on fracking.

    It’s hard to imagine that the experts’ behind the scenes, truncated review of health issues, which involves neither public input nor even disclosure of what’s being reviewed, is going to earn much trust.

    One thing’s for sure – the state needs to make the health review process transparent by releasing the experts’ reports and giving the public an opportunity to comment before finalizing the fracking SGEIS or regulations. Otherwise, the idea that we should trust them at all will be ludicrous.

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