Assemblywoman asks: What ever happened to NY’s hydrofracking panel?

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A Binghamton-area Assemblywoman penned a letter to the state’s top environmental regulator yesterday, urging him to call a meeting of the state’s High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel — a once-touted committee of interested parties that hasn’t met in nearly a year.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, wrote to Department of Environmental Conservation chief Joe Martens, expressing concerns she has over an in-progress review of the potential health impacts of hydrofracking and shale-gas drilling.

Specifically, Lupardo lays out six questions for the commissioner that she said she wants addressed at a meeting of the panel, which the assemblywoman serves on.

“I also have several other concerns that I have been waiting to discuss with the panel,” Lupardo wrote. “We never fully completed our analysis of potential negative economic impacts and mitigation strategies. As you know, I am especially interested in urban impacts given the nature of my Assembly district.”

The hydrofracking panel was unveiled in July 2011 at the same time the DEC released a draft of its environmental review of the controversial technique used with drilling. It was formed to come up with recommendations on a fee structure for drillers that would fund additional regulators, as well as ways to limit or prevent any negative impact on local governments

It met several times between July and December of last year, but postponed and canceled several meetings before it was officially put on hiatus in January of this year. The panel hasn’t met since mid-December 2011, and never met in public or issued any recommendations.

Both the DEC and the state Department of Health have been criticized by environmental groups for a lack of public information regarding the health review. Health Commissioner Nirav Shah declined to discuss it yesterday when approached by a reporter.

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9 Comments

  1. It is good to see that some of our elected officials would like to see the facts before decisions are made. Decisions about fracking should be made based on peer-reviewed science.

  2. Many excellent questions and points from the Assemblywoman. I hope she gets a reply from the Commissioner very soon.

  3. Why does NYS pretend to have an advisory panel on hydrofracking when the panel finds it so difficult to actually meet and does not have transparency?

    Fracking is a method of extracting gas from shale that is known to contaminate ground water, uses highly excessive amounts of fresh water (which would be better used for farming and drinking,) poisons the air with radioactive radon and greenhouse gas methane and decimates the private and public land and land value.

    It is very easy to find independent studies on the risks of fracking and actual cases of harm caused by fracking. This advisory panel is an embarrassment to the state of New York. The gas industry has had more than its share of say in this decision. Hopefully the health experts reviewing this matter will be thoroughly independent and the results will be available to the public in time for much comment. And the public’s comments should be considered wisely in any decisions.

  4. This Assemblywoman is asking the right questions that we all voted for our elected officials to ask. and that is to keep the New Yorkers well being in the fore front and also our lively hoods. The answer is that Fracking will take away jobs in our communities. Farming, Tourism,breweries, yogurt ,soda, orchards and any other viable job that uses water. I commend the Assemblywoman, keep up the vigil against the complacency.

  5. Kathleen A. Reynolds on

    As far as I can tell, these panels are a sham and are meant to look like the State is actually legitimately weighing the pros and cons of fracking. But they don’t seem to be. And anyway, there are ample non-governmental studies and reports to show that fracking is an evil, that it is a waste of taxpayer money to form these panels. The Assemblywoman asks all the right questions. I doubt she will get a reasonable answer.

  6. I live in Assemblymember Lupardo’s district and appreciate her trying to re-convene the panel and get responses to her many pertinent questions. This was the charge given to the panel:
    “The 12-member High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel will be charged with developing recommendations to ensure DEC and other agencies are adequately overseeing the controversial drilling process and developing proper regulations. They will also evaluate fees and other revenue streams to fund government oversight of hydrofracking.” (Source: http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2011/07/01/dec-names-hydrofracking-advisory-panel/ ) They took this charge seriously and when they started to fulfill their charge by collecting reports from those who would be affected, such as NYSACHO, they were sidelined, giving the appearance that the DEC did not want oversight. For the last year, the panel should have been gathering information and developing recommendations for taxes and fees so that, if the decision to begin permitting was made, the state would be prepared and have the necessary resources to protect NY’s people, roads, emergency services, social services, land, water, air, etc. They should also have been overseeing the regulations that have now been put out for comment despite the lack of a completed SGEIS and health review. Because the panel was sidelined, this work has not been done and New York will not be prepared on an agency by agency level if permitting begins. More bungling – less transparency seems to be the Albany trend on this issue.

  7. Cuomo, Schumer and Gillibrand have already decided on ‘safe fracking’ folks..It’s gonna go at first to areas that don’t have a ban. Then the companies will sue for rights to drill. They learned how to punch it thru in PA..you think they’re gonna pass this up long term? I am for a Federal Ban, but Liz Benjamin won’t have me on her program to talk about that.
    It’s the old three men in a room deal…that’s how NY politics works. But you knew that already.
    Scott Noren DDS
    Ithaca is Gorges

  8. I also live in Assemblywoman Lupardo’s district and am heartened by her courage in coming forward and asking for this Panel to be assembled. Are we living in the USSR or is this America? What happened to the democratic process? It is frightening to learn that so many decisions that will effect our towns are being made behind a veil of secrecy, despite numerous requests we’ve made to get the facts.

  9. Kudos , agreed, for the assemblywoman. She makes a number of very valid points. This so called hydrofracking panel IS an embarrassment for the state. We need a REAL evaluation of the dangers of hydrofracking, and apparently this sham Advisory panel is not the means to that end. New Yorkers must speak up and let our governor know that we demand a REAL health impact study, economic impact study, environmental impact study, water usage and treatment information…if he-and we-don’t want another Hurricane Sandy to occur regularly, we cannot allow something so destructive to the environment as hydrofracking to be allowed in NY.