EARTHWORKS

Coalition calls on elected officials and the DEC to focus on public health risks of gas drilling as NY Assembly considers issue

May 26, 2011

JOINT RELEASE: Advocates for Springfield; Butternut Valley Alliance; Cancer Action New York; Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy; Catskill Mountainkeeper; Chenango Community Action for Renewable Energy; Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes; Damascus Citizens for Sustainability; Delaware Riverkeeper Network; Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project; Environmental Advocates of New York; Frack Action; Fly Creek/Otsego Neighbors; Food & Water Watch; Friends of Butternuts; Middlefield Neighbors; Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation; New Lisbon Neighbors; NYH2O; New York Public Interest Research Group; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York; Onondaga Creek Conservation Council; Otsego 2000; Residents of Crumhorn; Roseboom Owners Awareness Response; Schoharie Valley Watch; Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter; Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development; Sustainable Otsego; Village of Cooperstown.

Albany, May 26, 2011 -- Today representatives of health, environmental, and citizens organizations called on the New York State legislature, Governor Cuomo, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to give priority to public health when determining the future of natural gas drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing ( fracking ) in the state.

Along with residents from the gas fields of New York and Pennsylvania, they gathered at a public hearing on the links between natural gas development using hydraulic fracturing and public health risks. The hearing was called by New York Assembly members Robert Sweeney, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, and Richard Gottfried, Chair of the Committee on Health. For the first time, legislative members had the opportunity to hear testimony from medical professionals, scientists, and health experts on the pathways of toxic contamination and subsequent health effects.

We thank Assembly members Sweeney and Gottfried for examining this critical issue, said Larysa Dyrszka, M.D. of Sullivan County. Evidence from around the United States shows that gas development using hydraulic fracturing poses a serious threat to public health and safety, and could harm many New York residents should the gas industry expand here.

The coalition of groups also emphasizes that to date, there has been little analysis from the DEC of how toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, air emissions from drilling operations, and residual radioactive waste and wastewater can degrade air and water quality and, in turn, public health. The draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) issued by the DEC last year failed to conduct public health risk assessments associated with these exposure pathways -- instead opting to defer analysis until after real life contamination events occur, and then on a case-by-case basis. This flawed methodology could be corrected before the current phase of environmental review ends sometime this summer -- a prerequisite to the DEC determining whether to issue permits for high-volume, horizontal drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shale.

The public health impacts of fracking are already a reality for many New Yorkers, said Natalie Brant from Collins, NY, whose family (including herself, her husband, and eight children) has experienced health problems since vertical drilling began at their residence three years ago. Things are only going to get worse unless our elected officials and public agencies put the well-being of people first.

Crystal Stroud of Towanda, Pennsylvania -- the center of Bradford County s gas drilling boom -- came to the hearing in Albany to support New York groups in their effort to prevent the kind of problems occurring in her community. My family and many of our neighbors thought that gas drilling was the answer to our economic problems, she said. But now our water contains heavy metals and radiological materials and I have nervous system and respiratory problems. It s a terrible trade-off, and one that New York should not make.

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For more information:

Contacts:

Larysa Dyrszka, M.D., 845-583-4381, lar917dy@gmail.com

Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper: 845-901-1029; wes@catskillmountainkeeper.org

Nadia Steinzor, Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project: 315-677-4111, nsteinzor@earthworksaction.org

Roger Downs, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, 518-426-9144, roger.downs@sierraclub.org

Interviews with affected residents in the Marcellus Shale region available upon request

Tagged with: public health, oil and gas, ogap, new york, fracking

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