Fracking critics keep pushing for state-backed health study

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A group of health professionals opposed to hydraulic fracturing penned a letter Wednesday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, calling on him to take a closer look at radon levels in shale gas before allowing fracking in New York.

frackingThe letter, signed by nine people including a representative of the American Lung Association, urges Cuomo’s administration to first examine whether gas from the Marcellus Shale has elevated levels of radon before green-lighting fracking. The state should take a closer look at radiation issues related to shale-gas before proceeding, the letter signers content.

But the letter is notable for this: The health professionals who signed the letter are continuing to push Cuomo’s administration to do its own study of fracking’s health-related impacts.

In September 2012, now-former state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah launched a review of fracking — which, he said often, was decidedly not a study. The Department of Health wasn’t tasked with studying the impacts of fracking, but rather reviewing the Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed permitting guidelines and studies conduct by outside professionals and colleges.

“We are writing to urge your administration to conduct studies and a human health risk assessment of the occurrence of radon and radium during drilling for natural gas before deciding whether to allow drilling in New York’s portion of the Marcellus shale or the distribution to New Yorkers of Marcellus shale gas containing unhealthy levels of radon,” the letter reads. “We urge your administration to make public any and all data collected about the presence of these two carcinogenic elements in Marcellus shale drilling so that the citizens of New York will have full access to the information used in your decisionmaking.”

Here’s the full letter:

CuomoLetter-RadiationHazards20140508

(File photo via USA Today)

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21 Comments

  1. DEPARTMENT OF UNWARANTED DELAY on

    Dear Cuomo

    Please put in place a complete health study on fracking to delay and deny landowners the same opportunity landowners have in over 30 other states, access to their mineral rights. Yes just so we can say we won the war on fracking in NY.even though we are aware of several other health studies done by other states, we want to waste taxpayers dollars here in NY on repetitive studies just so we can say we won the war on fracking in NY. Even though NYS is the forth largest user of Natural gas we don’t want no part of supporting our hypocrisy. signed….
    Screw the NY Farmer

  2. Thanks for this fantastic letter from real experts. Radon is a tremendous issue with fracked gas, and fracking inherently produces radioactive waste from the shale.
    Hopefully Governor Cuomo will listen to these serious issues and ban fracking in New York.

  3. These so called real experts are really front people for the Park Foundation’s (and other elitist progressive liberal groups like it) secret agenda regardless of what thier signed affiliation indicates. They are fronting for special interest groups with hidden agendas using thier call for health studies and false concern for public safety as a proxy means to stop NG devleopoment that has been shown to be safe and beneficial everywhere except bass-ackward NY under King Andrew Cuomo’s rule.

  4. August Braun on

    This is but another ruse concocted by a group of elitists who are totally ignoring all the other studies done in the 30 states that now allow high volume drilling. This is arrogance at its worst. They are saying that all the other studies were conducted apparently by nothing but a bunch of out – of – state rubes and NY’ers would do a better job. BS. Starting another study is little more than a delaying tactic and nothing more. I see one of the co – signers is affiliated with the Catskill Mountain Rivercreepers. This in itself is enough for Cuomo to disregard this baloney. I like what Senator Schumer said about drilling in NY – http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/tech/science/environment/2014/05/05/democrats-supported-fracking-schumer-says/8745909/ GO CHUCK!! FRACK NOW!!

  5. Joanne Corey on

    The Department of Health should have been co-lead agency with the DEC from the start and a complete Health Impact Assessment should have been conducted. Other states carelessly went ahead with HVHF without conducting health studies or environmental impact statements and have been trying to tighten regulations to deal with the many problems that surfaced, but the damage had already been done. These health professionals have studied the issues and I appreciate them sharing their knowledge with the governor and with all of us. I was particularly interested to see that Dr. Helen Caldicott, known internationally for decades for her work on issues of the health impacts of radioactive elements, was a signatory.

  6. August Braun on

    Joanne Corey: You stated: “Other states carelessly went ahead with HVHF without conducting health studies or environmental impact statements” Name one or is this just another in an unending stream of fear mongering and propaganda from VeRSE in Vestal, NY?

  7. Facts Please on

    Interesting article.This is a perfect example of the hypocrisy among the the cult. Maybe all Geo thermal should be halted and existing installs shut down until the health impact is applied there first ad it has a direct impact on the public being exposed to possible radon.
    This is more of the same select fear mongering.

  8. Barry Messina on

    Dear Governor Cuomo, We are writing to give you another nonsensical excuse to continue to stall. In New York, unlike every other state with a significant opportunity to develop natural gas, our public servants have failed repeatedly to meet their own deadlines to complete their scientific work and develop regulations to govern natural as development. You, Governor Cuomo, have failed repeatedly to demand the completion of the SGEIS development process, and instead hide from your leadership role behind excuses about waiting for health reviews (not actual studies, but reviews of studies done by others in places that are not New York). No other state has studied these issues as long without producing actionable recommendations for the leadership. The work has already been done by the EPA and the regulatory bodies of 30 other states. You appear to be quite happy with this endless stalling. Outside observers might wonder why you are so busy with the “New York is Open for Business” campaign when it is obvious that you are not interested in acting on the single most important business decision of your career as governor.

    “For four years now, Cuomo and two state agencies that report to him have held up the environmental study that’s the only thing preventing fracking in New York, even as the process is used safely all across America.” New York Post, April 3rd, 2014

    The Washington-based Tax Foundation’s annual report shows us that once again New York leads the nation in high taxes, while the Governor wastes millions on an unsuccessful media campaign to try and bring businesses into this disfunctional state.

    The deadlines in the New York Code of Rules and Regulations are mandatory, not optional. The SGEIS is a legally mandated environmental assessment, not an opinion. The DEC repeatedly missed deadlines, despite a number of public statements by the DOH Commissioner, DEC Commissioner and Governor Cuomo stating that issuance of the Final SGEIS was imminent. No justification for these arbitrary and capricious series of delays has been provided.

    If you pay any attention whatsoever to the letter from Caldicott, please pay attention to their funding sources: the Park Foundation paid for the establishment and continued existence of Physicians for Social Responsibility. If you are serious about helping the American Lung Association, remember that NY loses 25,000 people per year to lung cancer, at a cost of over $9 billion per year. Ban tobacco in New York, if you want to make a big difference in human health.

  9. Thank you. on

    Barry thank you for your detailed report of the factual accounts of the Cuomo adminstrations failure to handle difficult decision s. We need leadership in every level of government. His handling of this issue and the outrageous delay is what government should not be about. We need backbone Coumo only shows ability to divide and delay.

  10. August Braun on

    Mr. Messina wrote a great commentary, especially about the Park Foundation which appears to be at least an extreme socialist organization bent on trying to steal land from NY farmers and landowners any way they can through their proxies which includes this latest group. Here’s an EXCEL spreadsheet compiled by the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin outlining the grants given out by this scurrilous outfit from Ithaca, NY – http://www.pressconnects.com/assets/xls/CB208780719.XLS

  11. Hugh Kimball on

    To Mr. Braun, PA did not have a clue when HVHF started there. The most they have learned since is that biological waste treatment plants cannot handle flow back, espcially the salt which at one point caused severe problems in the Monongahela River and with intake pipes in Pittburgh. I haven’t followed other states that closely but I know of various problems in Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado.

  12. To Barry M, Regarding your statement, “If you are serious about helping the American Lung Association, remember that NY loses 25,000 people per year to lung cancer, at a cost of over $9 billion per year. Ban tobacco in New York, if you want to make a big difference in human health.”, one should not forget the thousands of deaths attributed to heart and lung conditions exacberated by the use of coal and oil. This is the exact reason NYC is being swithed over from No2 Oil to NG by means of city policy! NG can replace coal and oil and thus mitigate a much more serious threat to our healths than what HVHF has been proven to not be in other states and countries.

    So to your statement, “…if you want to make a big difference in human health.”, I would add, “and are really concerned about NYers’ health, support NG development.”

  13. Barry Messina on

    cdanon76, do you have any evidence that Cuomo cares about the health of New Yorkers? I just got an email from Andrew telling me all about his great success with campaign finance reform. Too bad he forget to check in with the Supreme Court.

    NY Post has it right: “Not surprisingly, they have big eyes for Albany — and if Cuomo is to be taken at his word, they soon will have their way. He promises to “keep fighting” to make New York “the largest state to pass public financing.”

    Never mind, again, the Supreme Court’s recent rulings that have liberalized campaign-finance restrictions — that is, providing for more debate, not less.

    Never mind, too, US District Judge Paul Crotty’s ruling two weeks ago tossing out key New York limits — guaranteeing that outside groups can spend freely, no matter the city or state’s public-finance rules. (The judge wasn’t happy about it, but he respected the high court’s rulings: “We know what the Supreme Court has held, whether we like it or not, and I’m bound to follow it.”)

    And never mind the equally inconvenient fact that, while states are free to adopt laws more liberal than Supreme Court precedents, they can’t contradict such rulings.

    Yet that is precisely the direction in which New York is headed — with Cuomo leading the parade.

    He knows better. He just doesn’t care: The elevation of politics over principle has been the hallmark of the Cuomo tenure.”

    Cuomo: spineless on natural gas, wrong on gun control, wrong on campaign finance, can’t make up his mind on education, thinks a slick TV campaign will bring businesses into the most business-unfriendly state in the country. But he looks good in a suit.

  14. Patricia Goldsmith on

    I hope Gov. Cuomo is listening to these respected experts, because we are. We are hearing it loud and clear. I personally have a radon remediation system in my home because I understand that radon causes cancer and I value my health. Gov. Cuomo, please honor your promise to let science and safety inform your decision and permanently ban fracking in New York!

  15. Barry Messina on

    Patricia, glad you are protecting yourself from radon.

    From http://www.radon.com/radon/radon_facts.html

    “Radon is a national environmental health problem. Elevated radon levels have been discovered in every state. The US EPA estimates that as many as 8 million homes throughout the country have elevated levels of radon. Current state surveys show that 1 home in 5 has elevated radon levels.”

  16. Land of The Forsaken NY on

    Why would NY need a full environmental health impact. According to Walter Hang simply for the purpose of delay! This is the only reason the anti drilling advocates in command over the country Including NY have reported that people are breathing easier where natural gas replaced coal burning power plants. NYC has a reported history of 13,000 newborns being born with asthma every year but since 2010 that number has been on decline and the USGS attributes the decline to natural gas use and replacing oil burners in the city. In fact thanks to natural gas our levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury are dropping in the lakes reported dead in the Adirondack mountains and aquatic life is returning as acid rain from burning coal is diminishing as well. The health of the earth and its inhabitants are improving thanks to natural gas conversion from coal

  17. To Patricia Goldsmith, the DEC in the SGEIs has already studied the issue and indicates that Radon in NG is NOT and issue.

    But for the sake of considering your views, let’s assume there is Radon in NG. If you feel we need to ban NG development due to the dangers of Radon, then we need to similarly address a much larger threat to public health and ban houses with Radon, starting with yours. Oh but you’ve mitigated the threat? Makes sense. Use technology to solve a problem. How novel!

    So instead being a hypocritical obstructionist on NG development using the Radon issue as a proxy means to your anti NG development ideological ends I suggest it would be wiser to advocate for using technology to resolve any Radon issue in NG just as you did in your home.

  18. To Barry M., in regards to your query “…do you have any evidence that Cuomo cares about the health of New Yorkers? “, I have none. It was NYC policy initiated by former Mayor Bloomberg to switch the city over to NG. Cuomo had nothing to do with it. As you point out, the only health Andy C. seems interested in is his political career’s health. But with all his bungled efforts I’d say his political career is terminal.