Fracking review consultant says in depth, national study needed

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One of three outside consultants tapped to assist with New York’s health review of hydraulic fracturing said it’s “absurd” that there hasn’t been an in-depth, national review of the gas-extraction process’ impact on human health.

In an online seminar given in January, UCLA professor Richard Jackson called for greater study of high-volume hydrofracking on a national level. But he cautioned that his comments during the 52-minute seminar are “not necessarily incorporated into the comments I’ve provided to New York State.”

“You can do health impact assessments briefly or you can do them in great depth,” Jackson said during the seminar. “I think we need a national one in great depth and it’s just absurd that we’re five to seven years into this vast enterprise of doing hydraulic fracturing and there’s not been a full-blown, national health impact assessment.”

Jackson, along with two other doctors from other universities, was selected in November to assist state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah in his review of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed safeguards for fracking.

Both supporters and opponents of fracking have been critical of the state for the lack of transparency surrounding the health review. Gannett reported Friday that the three experts had issued their recommendations weeks ago, which was not disclosed in lengthy budget testimony given to lawmakers over the past two weeks by Shah and the DEC. In an email to an advocacy group, Jackson said he “had access to and looked generally at the (DEC’s) enormous (Environmental Impact Statement) but my role was to review the health issues and plans.”

Jackson touched on a number of issues related to fracking during his January presentation and subsequent question-and-answer session.

On the economic and energy benefits of the vast reserves of natural gas:

“We’ve got to make sure there are long term benefits and its not the typical boom bust cycle that we see with every other gold rush and in fact thats exactly whats going on with hydraulic fracturing is its a gold rush.”

On the potency of methane and a greenhouse gas:

“Methane is far more effective a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide and is a major contributor to local air quality problems and it has it’s own set of risks as well. I really feel very strongly, I want to come back to this, that all energy sources have health impacts and as we pick what we are going to work on we need to minimize the negatives on the ones that we’re using. And I do think that moving coal power plants to methane is a big improvement.”

Here’s the full seminar, which was posted on UCLA’s website:

Continuing the Conversation – Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts Human Health: Public Health Strategies to Reduce the Risks from UCLA Fielding School of Public H on Vimeo.

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8 Comments

  1. New York should not move forward with ANY permitting of HVHF until the in-depth study that Dr. Jackson suggests has been completed and the results analyzed. I live in Broome County and refuse to be treated as an unwilling test subject in a fracking experiment. Unfortunately for them, many in other states have already been exposed to these hazards. A thorough, independent, and transparent public health study in these already affected areas should reveal answers to assist in the care of these individuals, as well as pinpoint the exact exposures that led to their symptoms or increased risk profiles.

  2. Whatever the DEC did last year as a “health impact study” it is obviously not the kind of study Dr. Jackson is talking about nor is it the full health risk assessment tha the public asked for during the SCOPE process and after the first two drafts of the SGEIS. DEC ignored thos requests until they realized they had to do something. Then they did whatever they did and kept it secret even though they put the regulations, which should be based on the SGEIS, out for comment and then closed the comment period with the public and the legislature still in the dark on the study and the supposed final version of the SGEIS.

    We must hope that Dr. Jackson and his colleagues have recommended that the state do more than what DEC did. Such a health study when first we requested it might not have yielded much. Now it will as we have a whole history of adverse impacts in Pennsylvania, lists of people whose health has been affected, stories of dead and stillborn or aborted animals, a study by the University of Colorado’s School of Public Health on the greater incidence of cancer within one half miles of gas wells, and on and on.

    DEC needs to remember that their charge is to protect the environment and the public, not to become as aid to the gas industry.

  3. Rebecca Casstevens on

    a thorough national health assessment on fracking is long past due! in NY, the DEC’s pathetic pseudo-effort to address this extremely important issue is but one of a host of reasons why gov.cuomo should not lift the moratorium on fracking!

  4. Think about the vast health assessment analysis that goes into introducing a new medicine. Shouldn’t we be entitled to receive the same safe guards with an industrial operation that crosses all boundaries of our country? I think so!

    I am thankful Mr Jackson has made this claim in a public venue. We are so overdue for this review.

  5. “And I do think that moving coal power plants to methane is a big improvement.”
    Dr. Jackson – This statement assumes more gas will equal less coal. This is a false assumption – new markets are being created for coal in Asia. Coal exports in 2012 surpassed the all-time historic high of 1981 according to the EIA – http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=8490

    More gas does not equal less coal until there is a global policy mandating the phasing out of coal. We are extracting and exporting coal here in record amounts the last three years at the same time thousands of gas wells have been high-volume fracked – blowing off the mountiantops here to combust it there – and blowing up the bedrock with our precious freshwater.

    Yes, all forms of energy have impacts. But it is past time to move beyond misleading statements of coal is better than gas. All fossil fuel extraction needs to be phased out and quickly. Renewables are not optional. And all around the globe they are proving viable.

  6. It is interesting that Professor Richard Jackson on his own has informed the public a bit about the work he did for NYS studying the health impacts of HVHF and DEC’s the proposed regulations. Their is no word of the results of this study from the NYS Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, even though the experts’ study was completed two months ago and Commissioner Shah has addressed the public since then. Could the the study be negative for the gas industry? Wouldn’t that be a very good reason to release the information by the agencies charged with reviewing the impacts of fracking and protecting the public? Why doesn’t the public health matter more than the gas industry money?

  7. Mr. Jackson is so right about a national review, since HVHF has been going on in states like Colorado, Texas, N. Dakota and Penn. I hope the EPA keeps politics out of it’s studies and determines the health risks through a thorough investigation using science.