New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens has rejected requests by health and environmental groups to have an independent party assess the health impact of the natural gas extraction method called “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is awaiting the results of a DEC review begun in 2008 before deciding whether to allow high-volume fracking in New York.
Fracking involves pumping large quantities of water underground to break up subterranean rock formations, releasing the natural gas trapped there. It’s controversial because fracking water contains toxic chemicals including the carcinogen benzene, and heath and environmental activists worry that it will contaminate drinking water.
Part of the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserve extends into New York, along with sections of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.
Marten’s decision has angered some anti-fracking activists, who want a health impact analysis by a university school of public health or other independent group. Martens said he’s asked Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to assess DEC’s own health impact analysis.
The report quotes New Yorkers Against Fracking co-founder Sandra Steingraber as saying that more than 250 health professionals wrote to Cuomo last year, expressing their lack of faith in the ability of the health department to identify health risks associated with fracking.
“With the health of millions of New Yorkers at risk, Governor Cuomo must demand a rigorous, comprehensive health impact assessment by an independent team of public health experts,” Steingraber says.
According to Martens, the DEC has been reviewing about 80,000 comments submitted about the agency’s environmental impact review and proposed regulations, many of which were focused on potential health impacts of fracking.
Martens said he anticipates that some of the fracking opponents will file suit if the state’s decision ultimately goes against them, and that the DEC’s involvement “will ensure the strongest possible legal position for the Department given the near certainty of litigation.”
Lopez McHugh is investigating injuries related to natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserve. If you have significant injuries, contact a Lopez McHugh attorney for a free evaluation.
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