Leaked NY state analysis says fracking is safe

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The New York Times reported Thursday that a leaked study from the state’s Health Department says the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can be safely done in the Empire State.

The eight-page analysis — leaked to the Times by an “expert who did not believe it should be kept secret” — concluded that fracking could be done safely within the state of New York and details the potential impacts on a variety of environmental factors, including fracking’s impact on water resources, on naturally occurring radiological material found in the ground, and on air quality. The analysis also looked at “potential socioeconomic and quality-of-life impacts.”

According to the Times, the analysis says that fracking can be done safely if the regulatory system that has been developed over several years is followed, and the analysis also rejects broad quantitative risk assessments that would attempt to project the probability of different kinds of hazards..

However, a spokesperson for the State Department of Environmental Conservation said the analysis, done early last year, was out of date, and has gone through substantial changes.

“The document you have is merely a summary, is nearly a year old, and there will be substantial changes to that version,” she told the Times, adding that the revised analysis on fracking runs about 1,500 pages, delves more into health issues, and turns to outside experts for review.

The oil and gas industry welcomed this leaked report, saying it is further evidence that fracking is safe and can be done in an environmentally friendly way.

“Today’s news reports that the New York State Health Department found in an analysis it prepared early last year that hydraulic fracturing could be conducted safely in New York should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched this industry grow and prosper across the United States,” said New York State Petroleum Council Executive Director Karen Moreau in a statement.

“In fact, these reports confirm what has been clear for some time now: sensible regulations can ensure safe natural gas development will protect land, water and public health while providing tens of thousands of good jobs throughout the Marcellus Shale,” she added.

Fracking involves injecting fluids into cracks in rock formations in order to widen them and allow more oil and gas to escape, increasing the amount of oil and gas that can be recovered. The process has come under fire from environmental groups and been a contentious issue in the state of New York which has yet to make a decision on the issue. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been delaying a final decision on whether or not to approve the practice.

“The document itself is not a health impact study at all,” Katherine Nadeau, the water and natural resources program director at the environmental group Environmental Advocates of New York, told the Times. “As drafted it is merely a defense or justification as to why the administration didn’t do a rigorous study.”

State regulators have been studying the impacts of fracking for four years, and it is expected that a plan to allow limited fracking activity along the Pennsylvania border will be the most likely outcome if the drilling process is approved.

“New York can create more than 25,000 jobs, save family farms, keep families together and lift entire communities by moving forward with safe natural gas development,” Moreau said. “We respect the process the Governor has established, and trust that in the end the interest of the people will come before fear mongering and politics.”

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