Environmental activists and anti-fracking New Yorkers cheered Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that the issuance of the final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which would determine the fate of hydraulic fracturing in New York State, will be delayed. The announcement has been counted as a victory by opponents of the controversial drilling practice in the on-going debate over the health and safety impacts of hydro-fracking.
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said that more information is needed to complete the public health review before any final statement can be made. Without a public health review, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said that he cannot release this Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which would outline the effects of fracking on the natural environment.
“The decision to permit high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) is important, and involves complex questions about the impact of the process on public health,” said Commissioner Shah in a letter to Commissioner Martens. “The time to ensure the impacts on public health are properly considered before a state permits drilling.”
If the hydraulic fracturing processes were approved, the process would involve horizontal drilling for natural gases into the Marcellus Shale rock, and a technique known as “slick water fracturing,” which would utilize large amounts of water. This, said Commissioner Shah, is exactly what he would be analyzing: the fracking’s effect on water contamination, as well as air quality and surrounding community impact.
“Dr. Shah is wisely taking the time to come to a careful decision about what needs to happen to protect New York from the harmful effects of fracking,” said Dr. Kathleen Nolan, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s High Peaks Regional Director.
Hydro-fracking has remained a controversial issue in New York, and many local officials have denounced the process. An Upper West Side community forum on fracking was held last week by elected representatives including State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Council Member Gale Brewer. Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who was also at the community forum and has repeatedly spoken out against fracking at the state level, is concerned about the impact on the local community.
“It is my sincere hope that the Administration would heed the warnings of public health and environmental experts to stop this process in its entirety until a comprehensive and wholly independent health study can be completed,” said Rosenthal in a statement.
This delay, however, is not a permanent setback for the drilling industry. Once the health review is completed within the next few weeks, and if it has addressed each of these concerns, a permit to begin the hydro-fracking process could be processed within 10 days.
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