Doctors and Scientists Present Gov. Cuomo with Fracking Science Digest
A compilation of independent scientific studies and reports related to the health impacts of hydrofracking was presented to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today by a representative of a delegation of medical doctors and scientists.
In a cover letter, the experts have requested a meeting with the Governor to discuss his desire for "the facts and logic and science and information," which he says will be the basis for his decision on the controversial gas drilling technique. The 275-page digest, culled from tens of thousands of pages of scientific findings, was prepared expressly for the Governor by Grassroots Environmental Education.
"The Governor cannot possibly make an informed decision on one of the most important public health issues of our lifetime based solely on industry-sponsored science, or agency reports that do not include any analysis of the public health impacts of hydro-fracking, particularly on the most vulnerable, which includes our children," says Dr. Ronald Bishop, professor of biochemistry at SUNY/Oneonta and author of two of the eighteen studies included in the digest.
"We don't have all the answers we'd like yet," says Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots and Visiting Scholar at Adelphi University who helped compile the digest. "But with these studies we can say with certainty that fracking will directly impact the health of everyone living in areas where drilling occurs and potentially contaminate vital air and water resources for millions of people living across the state."
The digest, which contains a number of peer-reviewed studies that were published after the Department of Environmental Conservation's comment period officially closed in January, is designed to balance studies sponsored by the gas industry, as well as DEC-commissioned reports that did not include consideration of human health impacts, especially those affecting the most vulnerable populations.
"Without rigorous independent scientific studies, the gas drilling boom sweeping the world will remain an uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale," said Dr. Michelle Bamberger and Dr. Robert Oswald, co-authors of another study which analyzed the impacts of gas drilling on the health of animals and humans.
"We recommend that New York State fully examine the scientific evidence and potential risks presented by hydrofracking and make decisions that protect the health of generations of New York children and the environment they will inherit," said Dr. Maida Galvez, vice president of District II Chapter 3 of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"We know now that children may have genetic vulnerabilities for such conditions as autism, brain cancers and other chronic diseases, but that environmental insults can trigger the onset or progression, "says pediatric neurologist Dr Maya Shetreat-Klein, assistant clinical professor of Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "It is imperative that the Governor review the scientific evidence outlining the toxic impact of fracking on children, pregnant women and others."
An index to the digest and links to all the studies are located on Grassroots Environmental Education's web site.
Grassroots Environmental Education is an EPA award-winning 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization with offices in Port Washington and Rye, New York. The organization's mission is to bridge the gap between scientific research and public understanding by educating the public about the links between common environmental exposures and human health, and empowering individuals to act as catalysts for change within their own communities.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.