At a year-end meeting of his cabinet last week, Gov. Cuomo said that his administration will not authorize natural gas development using high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HVHF). He said that the process, commonly called “fracking,” poses potential human health risks, and that the economic benefits are too limited.
New York State has been considering this issue since 2008. Environmentalists claim that fracking poses a threat to public health and to the environment, while Southern Tier residents see fracking as providing a much-needed boost to the region’s economy.
The state Department of Health (DOH) released its long-awaited health study. DOH’s review found significant uncertainties regarding potential adverse health outcomes that may be associated with fracking, as well as the adequacy of mitigation measures to protect public health. The report concludes that it will be years until science and research provide sufficient information to determine the level of risk HVHF poses to public health and whether those risks can be adequately mitigated.
We cannot help but see the influence of politics – not science – in this decision to kill the Southern Tier’s most promising hope for economic development.
We find the Department of Health’s report to be far from convincing. It does not identify any demonstrated harms that properly regulated drilling would cause to human health or to the environment. Instead, it just discusses the potential harms that could result from drilling. But we know the actual harm of not having a job or the prospects of one – and of not having health insurance.
Fracking could have created thousands of good jobs in the Southern Tier – a part of the state that sorely needs them.