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There’s a kind of black curtain over the whole process

Healthcare professionals seek hydrofracking meeting

A group of healthcare professionals are seeking a meeting with Governor Cuomo's health department, saying they have compiled a compendium of new and ongoing research that highlights numerous health risks associated with hydrofracking.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent
The health experts, including a doctor, a veterinarian and a Cornell University medical professor, have requested a meeting with Governor Cuomo’s acting health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to go over the growing number of studies that indicate numerous health risks associated with fracking.
Dr. Sandra Steingraber, from Ithaca College, says the compilation of results and ongoing research created by the group shows numerous potential dangers, including everything from worsening air pollution and water contamination to potential earthquakes and increased crime due to the boom in the gas extraction business. She says there’s more data than ever to look at.  
“There’s now a parallel boom in research,” said Steingraber, who says the first four months of 2014 saw more studies published than all of 2011 and 2012 combined.
The health care professionals say they don’t know whether Cuomo’s acting health commissioner is looking at the same data because there has been no public information about the health review, which has been continuing for nearly two years now. Since it began, Cuomo’s health commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah has resigned to take a job in the private sector and is yet to be replaced.
“There’s a kind of black curtain over the whole process,” Steingraber said.
Fracking has been in limbo in New York State for over five years. The health care professionals say another five-year moratorium is warranted in light of all of the new data and ongoing health studies.
Meanwhile another group of fracking opponents say the governor’s environmental agency should begin an entirely new review of the potential impacts of fracking in light of all of the new data since the supplemental environmental impact statement was started in September of 2009. Walter Hang with Toxics Targeting says the original draft is now outdated.
“It’s just missing so much current information,” said Hang. “It’s simply not appropriate to base a final decision on.”
Hang says a comprehensive public health impact study should be conducted before any more steps are taken.
The environmental impact process has been on hold since Cuomo’s health department began the health review. The governor and his health officials have repeatedly said there is no timetable for completion.
Should fracking go forward in New York, a recent Court of Appeals ruling limits where it can happen. The court said that local governments whose citizens do not want fracking can opt out of allowing the gas drilling process in their city, town or village.

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