Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 9, 2013

Fracking health study results likely years off


Niagara Gazette — Leaders of an anti-fracking coalition in New York state have said Cuomo should wait for results of the Geisinger study and also call for a far more extensive, New York-specific review of potential health, community and socioeconomics effects. Such a study would involve public hearings and comment periods.

Critics worry about the environmental and health effects from fracking, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into underground rock to free vast reserves of gas. There have been cases of water and air pollution, as well as concerns about the waste generated by drilling. Some regulators and the industry say with proper regulations, gas can safely be extracted from the shale, and the Obama administration supports the practice.

A month ago, a proposal to drill and closely monitor a limited number of wells in the set of southern New York counties known as the Southern Tier gained momentum within the Cuomo administration, although Cuomo hadn't made a decision, according to two people who were familiar with his thinking.

Kennedy, Cuomo's former brother-in-law, told The Associated Press that he talked to Cuomo around the same time about the Geisinger report, which Kennedy thinks will be "pivotal." Soon after Cuomo spoke with Kennedy and others, the momentum to approve limited drilling died.

Cuomo's health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, mentioned the Geisinger study among three health reviews that could influence Cuomo's decision. The others are an Environmental Protection Agency study, due for completion in 2014, of potential effects of fracking on drinking water, and a study recently announced by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with scientists from Columbia, Johns Hopkins and the University of North Carolina.

Dr. Aaron Bernstein, associate director of Harvard's Center for Health and the Global Environment, said researchers there hope to hear this month about funding for a comprehensive study on the health impacts of fracking that was proposed last year.

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