Despite being linked to major health and environmental catastrophes across the nation, hydraulic fracturing continues at an alarming rate. Gas companies have deep pockets and clever lobbyists that have no problem using misinformation and in some case propaganda to push communities into allowing this dangerous practice.
Although it may seem like the quest to stop hydraulic fracturing is a losing battle, there are small victories, and each one is significant. New York is just one of many battleground states where citizens are standing up against Big Gas’ tactics. Activists, from everyday citizens to celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Yoko Ono, have joined together to expose the health and environmental dangers of fracking and convince state and local government that thorough environmental assessments are needed before fracking can be allowed.
These efforts were recently rewarded as Governor Cuomo again delayed making a decision on whether to allow hydraulic fracturing in the Southern Tier of New York — near the Pennsylvania border. This means fracking, currently banned in NY, will be blocked for a while longer.
Those who have worked to expose fracking dangers, including thousands of Care2 members who signed this petition, and those who picket nearly daily in Albany, should take comfort in the fact that risk to public health was cited as the reason for the delay.
“The decision to permit High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) is important, and involves complex questions about the impact of the process on public health,” wrote Dr. Shah, the State Department of Health Commissioner, in a letter to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens. “The time to ensure the impacts on publichealth are properly considered is before a state permits drilling. Other states began serious health reviews only after proceeding with widespread HVHF. In my view, that is not the right approach for New York to take if we are serious that public health is the paramount question in making the HVHF decision. And as HealthCommissioner, protecting the public health is my primary job.”
“I will not issue a final SGEIS until that review is complete and I have received Dr. Shah’s recommendations,” wrote Martens in a subsequent press release. ”He has indicated he expects his review to be complete in a few weeks after he has had an opportunity to review recent studies underway which are pertinent to the evaluation of high-volume hydraulic fracturing impacts on public health.”
Although Big Gas and its supporters, among them Donald Trump, are frustrated by the continued delay, it’s the right thing to do. They’re incredulous that we would prefer clean air and water over cheap gas. Too often we’ve allowed the fossil fuel industry to have its way, only to see widespread contamination, illness, and disease destroy communities a few years down the road. The fact that NY’s Department of Health is taking the time to do its job correctly is an encouraging fact that means a permanent fracking ban isn’t out of the question.
“If the DOH review finds that there is a public health concern that has not been assessed in the SGEIS or properly mitigated, we would not proceed, as I have stated in the past,” said Martens.
Image via credofracking/Flickr