Health commissioner: Fracking review will be finished “in the next few weeks”

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New York Health Commissioner Nirav Shah broke his silence on the state’s review of the health impacts of hydrofracking, telling a panel of lawmakers he anticipates completing the analysis in “the next few weeks.”

Shah first began his review in September at the request of the Department of Environmental Conservation, which itself has been reviewing the environmental effects of fracking since 2008. But little about the health review has been made public and Shah has declined to answer questions about it three separate times.

Asked by Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried about the state of the review, Shah said “the vast majority of the material for our review, the health review, is available on the Internet at the DEC website.”

Shah said he anticipates “concluding our review in the next few weeks.” When one assemblyman characterized Shah’s review as a “study,” Shah pushed back.

“It’s actually not a health study,” he said. “It’s very specifically not a health study.” Instead, he said, it’s a review of the DEC’s Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement — a lengthy, yet-to-be-finalized environmental assessment — and whether the agency’s proposals are enough to protect public health.

“There’s two charges to the review,” Shah said. “One is looking at any mitigation of any public-health effects and the other is surveillance.”

But a draft of the SGEIS was last released in August 2011 and has presumably been updated to reflect concerns raised in about 80,000 public comments that were submitted to the DEC.

A leaked 2012 summary of the DEC’s efforts to prevent health impacts from fracking, however, was obtained by Gannett’s Albany Bureau and other media outlets. The analysis concluded that the DEC’s proposals would allow fracking to move forward safely.

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4 Comments

  1. Why are all the state officials keeping so many secrets and not allowing the pubic to see what is going on? Why was the comment period for the regulations closed before the health impact study was completed? Why could we not have seen the SGEIS in its final form before having the regulation comment period end? How is the process even remotely fair, when the regulations are supposed to be based on what is in the SGEIS?

  2. Dr. Shah’s testimony does not inspire confidence. The people of New York deserve an independent, comprehensive Health Impact Assessment, completed with public participation in accord with national/international standards.

  3. When I was at the “budgetary meeting ” of the DEC in Albany and heard Marten’s explanation and retort from the legislators, one of whom asked why there would be in the thousands of pages of the SGEIS, only 7 pages of a health review? One can only conclude that the health of the citizens of New York is not a priority in the SGEIS. So it’s time to throw that out and ban fracking. Because they know, fracking cannot be done safely anywhere. With Martens stating that the DEC’s budget was slashed by 20% and went further to explain how well his staff is still working in such a tight budget, how can NY have fracking unleashed into our state with the DEC unprepared due to lack of funding? This is a travesty.