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DEC to prohibit fracking in New York state after release of health review

Dr Howard Zucker presents health study

Concluding statement from New York DEC Commissioner Joe Martens,
Conclusion of Howard Zucker's presentation.
Raw audio of fracking component of Cuomo cabinet meeting on 12/17/2014

"Considering the research, the public comments, relevant studies and the enormous record DEC has amassed on this issue, I have directed my staff to complete the secret process early next year by publishing a final SGEIS, I will then issue a legally binding finding statement prohibiting HVHF in New York state at this time."

That closing statement by the Commissioner of New York's Department of Environmental Conservation, Joe Martens shuts down the prospect of hydrofracking or high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) being permitted in New York state in the forseeable future.

The decision was made at the Cuomo cabinet meeting held in Albany on Wednesday.

The comment by the Commissioner followed a lengthy review of the health impact literature by the state's Health Commissioner Dr Howard Zucker. He summarized his review:

“I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered,” said Dr. Zucker.  “I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done.  I asked myself, ‘would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’  The answer is no.  I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”

Conservation groups such as Catskill Mountainkeeper have quickly declared it an historic victory, 

"At the same time as New York State takes this powerful stance against the fossil fuel industry, it has also made major moves to support a green economy by investing in renewable energy, micro grids and conservation."

The upstate business lobby group Unshackle Upstate said in a press release that the decision was a blow to the upstate economy and

"New York State has yielded to a well-funded, fear-based propaganda campaign."

Today's announcement comes after an effective moratorium has been in place in the state since 2010.

Here is the key points of environmental impacts and health outcomes from the report's executive summary:

  • Air impacts that could affect respiratory health due to increased levels of particulate matter, diesel exhaust, or volatile organic chemicals.
  • Climate change impacts due to methane and other volatile organic chemical releases to the atmosphere.
  • Drinking water impacts from underground migration of methane and/or fracking chemicals associated with faulty well construction.
  • Surface spills potentially resulting in soil and water contamination
  • Surface-water contamination resulting from inadequate wastewater treatment.
  • Earthquakes  induced during fracturing.
  • Community impacts associated with boom-town economic effects such as increased vehicle traffic, road damage, noise, odor complaints, increased demand for housing and medical care, and stress.

A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development

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