Quantcast

Latest Move on Fracking Shows Democracy is Alive and Well in NY

Energy

Last week, Cuomo's State Health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, announced that he needs more time to review fracking's health impacts, meaning that the state's current proposed fracking regulations will expire on Feb. 28. Any future plans for fracking now depend on how the health issue comes out, which may take as much as a year or more to determine, according to some observers.

The Cuomo administration is taking a closer look at how fracking would affect our health and our communities because he—along with hundreds of thousands of his constituents—realized it was the right thing to do. In the end, whether you love fracking or hate it, you should be glad this happened.

Contrast the situation in New York with what's gone on elsewhere in America. Over the past five years, 20 different states rushed to embrace fracking.

Fracking companies drilled more than 26,000 wells in the past two years alone, increasing domestic gas production but with serious side effects like depletion of underground water supplies and heavy-duty industrialization of formerly rural areas, which will harm local tourism and agriculture.

But the biggest problem with fracking is the risk it poses to our health. Fracking operations have forced families to abandon their homes after their drinking water was poisoned. Airborne pollution has spiked as well—fracking spews more smog-producing chemicals into the air around Dallas/Ft. Worth than all of the area's cars, trucks and buses combined.

Ominous signs like these led Cuomo to ask state health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, to determine whether New York's environmental impact statement on fracking gave proper consideration to health issues. Unfortunately for those who want New York to start fracking now, Dr. Shah's analysis is producing more questions than answers.

While his final recommendations won't be out until March, Dr. Shah has already written New York's environmental commissioner, Joe Martens, to warn that there are major gaps in our understanding of how fracking impacts human health, adding that the first national health studies on fracking are just now starting.

“Other states," Commissioner Shah reminds us, “began serious health reviews only after proceeding with widespread [fracking]." In Shah's view, “that is not the right approach for New York to take if we are serious [about] public health … "

Some have said that if fracking is good enough for President Obama, it should also be good enough for Governor Cuomo, but you don't have to look too hard to see why Cuomo's on the right track here. For example, Dr. Christopher Portier, director of the federal Center for Environmental Health, asserts that fracking has been a “disaster" in some communities and Portier, like Shah, admits that we lack much of the basic information needed to know whether it can be done safely.

New Yorkers should thank Cuomo, Shah and Martens for pulling us back from the brink of an ill-informed decision to start fracking. Remember—sub-prime mortgages looked great for a few years, until they proved disastrous. Same thing with asbestos and PCBs.

So, what turned the tide on fracking in New York? Everyday New Yorkers—many of whom had never gotten involved in an environmental fight in their lives—joined with family physicians, green groups, local politicians and others to make the case and expose the misinformation about fracking, and Cuomo listened. They uncovered evidence that fracking not only puts public health at risk, it may even drive down a community's long-term economic growth, educational attainment and ability to attract investment. Most recently, they helped call attention to federal studies showing that fracking releases so much methane into the atmosphere it may actually cause more climate disruption than coal or oil.

So, even if you think fracking should happen, don't knock Cuomo for hitting 'reset.' He's following the facts, which raise real concerns—shared by a growing multitude of public officials, academics and health professionals—that we don't really know how seriously fracking affects human health or the environment.

Years from now, New Yorkers will be glad Governor Cuomo decided to take a hard look at fracking instead of rushing to embrace this dangerous new form of drilling before its health and environmental impacts were fully understood.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Arx0nt / Moment / Getty Images

By Taylor Jones, RD

Oats are a highly nutritious grain with many health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

Get ready to toast bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. National Pollinator Week is June 17-23 and it's a perfect time to celebrate the birds, bugs and lizards that are so essential to the crops we grow, the flowers we smell, and the plants that produce the air we breathe.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Alexander Spatari / Moment / Getty Images

It seems like every day a new diet is declared the healthiest — paleo, ketogenic, Atkins, to name a few — while government agencies regularly release their own recommended dietary guidelines. But there may not be an ideal one-size-fits-all diet, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less
Logging shown as part of a thinning and restoration effort in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon on Oct. 22, 2014. Oregon Department of Forestry / CC BY 2.0

The U.S Forest Service unveiled a new plan to skirt a major environmental law that requires extensive review for new logging, road building, and mining projects on its nearly 200 million acres of public land. The proposal set off alarm bells for environmental groups, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Maskot / Getty Images

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to wonder which foods are healthiest.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Homes in Washington, DC's Brookland neighborhood were condemned to clear room for a highway in the 1960s. The community fought back. Brig Cabe / DC Public Library

By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia

In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."

Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators outside a Republican presidential debate in Detroit in 2016. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Michigan prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against government officials involved in the Flint water crisis Thursday, citing concerns about the investigation they had inherited from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) appointed by former Attorney General Bill Schuette, CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Samara Heisz / iStock / Getty Images

New York state has joined California, West Virginia, Arizona, Mississippi and Maine in ending religious exemptions for parents who prefer not to vaccinate their children, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less