NY health regulators to make fracking decision within weeks

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

Less than a week after the New York State Assembly voted to extend the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, the state health commissioner said he plans to give his recommendation on whether New York should approve fracking in the coming weeks.

New York Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said that he will not wait for the final results of pending studies on natural gas drilling, which could be years away, or for state officials to speak with some researchers who have reviewed the health impacts of fracking.

Shah has already met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Geisinger Health researchers within the last two weeks, reports the Associated Press.

Last week, the New York State Assembly voted to extend the fracking moratorium to 2015 and require more environmental studies on the drilling practice.

“We will not sit idly by and endanger the health and safety of our communities by rushing necessary health and safety reviews,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

However, The New York Times released a leaked state Health Department study that said fracking can be safely done in the Empire State using the regulatory system that has been developed over several years.

New York has had a fracking moratorium since 2008, and the Cuomo administration recently delayed finalizing regulations on fracking — potentially pushing the moratorium into 2014.

“Governor Cuomo has built a reputation for action, for decisiveness and for making Albany work. Yet, after two years of claiming that he would let science be the determinant, he appears now to be dithering under pressure from environmental extremists who rely on false claims and junk science to stop progress,” said New York State Petroleum Council Executive Director Karen Moreau. “It’s time for a decision. It’s time for safe natural gas development.”

Fracking involves injecting fluids into cracks in rock formations to widen them and allow more oil and gas to escape, increasing the amounts that can be recovered.

Environmentalists have raised concerns about both water contamination and companies that fail to disclose information about fracking fluid content.

The issue has New Yorkers deeply divided. A recent Sienna Poll found that New York voters opposed fracking moving forward by a narrow 43 percent-to-39 percent margin.

“It is opposed by a plurality of Democrats, independents, New York City voters, and a near majority of upstaters,” said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg. “It’s supported by a strong majority of Republicans and a plurality of downstate suburban voters.”

“The latest Siena poll shows that, despite loud and boisterous cries from environmental alarmists, New Yorkers still recognize the potential benefits safe natural gas development can bring to the State,” Moreau said. “But even more, the poll makes clear that New Yorkers want the governor to put politics aside when making decisions that are best for the state.”

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