New studies on hydrofracking and its potential health impacts led Senator David Carlucci’s introduction of legislation on Tuesday to suspend hydrofracking in New York State for 24 months. According to Carlucci that would allow time for the completion of three ongoing independent public health studies. Additionally the proposal would require the commissioner of health to consider the results of the studies.
“We can’t make such an important and critical decision in a bubble without having all of the facts at our disposal,” said Carlucci.
The proposed legislation comes as the commissioner of health conducts a public health review of the revised draft supplemental generic draft environmental impact statement (SGEIS). The state Department of Environmental Conservation must review all compiled scientific data before issuing any recommendations regarding the permitting of hydrofracking. Carlucci and other members of the Independent Democratic Conference were joined by 10 statewide environmental organizations, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which urged the legislature to adopt and pass the legislation immediately.
Carlucci stressed he feels all the necessary information has not been collected and considered.
“Rushing to judgment without all of the facts is a recipe for a disaster, particularly involving a hydrofracking process that lacks transparency and accountability, and has appeared to pose significant harmful health effects towards populations surrounding the Marcellus Shale,” he said. “I cannot in good conscience support any measure that does not first fully evaluate all related scientific data, and that is precisely what we are advocating for here today
Horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), which is commonly referred to as hydrofracking, involves extracting natural gas from an underground shale formation. The process generally includes the introduction under high pressure of millions of gallons of fracturing fluid, which is a mixture of water, proppants and chemicals, into a previously drilled wellbore.
Previous studies related to the use of hydrofracking have focused mainly on the environmental impacts. Experts have noted that inadequate casing and concrete lining the walls of the wellbore along with poor wastewater management practices can cause the accidental release of fracturing fluid and methane into surface and groundwater.
On February 12, the health commissioner notified the DEC commissioner of the ongoing public health review. Three studies of HVHF-related health impacts are being reviewed. They include a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, “Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources.” A release of the final draft report is expected for public comment and peer review in 2014.
The Geisinger Health System study reviews health histories of hundreds of thousands of patients who live near wells and other facilities producing natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation and its results are expected within the next year. University of Pennsylvania researchers are conducting a study of HVHF-related health impacts in collaboration with scientists from Columbia, Johns Hopkins and the University of North Carolina.
"Critical research is just getting underway that may provide answers we must have before any decision on allowing fracking in New York can be made,” said Riverkeeper’s Watershed Program Director Kate Hudson. “Only a decision based on a comprehensive analysis of fracking's public health impacts will begin to fulfill the state's responsibility to protect the health of all New Yorkers.”
Some of the other environmental groups supporting the legislation include Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Environmental Advocates of New York, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Frack Action, and Concerned Health Professionals of NY