Fracking calls for more scrutiny


Gov. Andrew Cuomo must not rush the decision process when it comes to proposed hydraulic fracturing in New York. That’s what more than 40 environmental, public health, conservation, sportsmen and good-government interests from across New York urged in a letter sent Wednesday to the governor, calling on him to ensure that the state will not allow this risky new method of natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region until the complete range of potential impacts have been fully evaluated.

In January Gov. Cuomo reissued an executive order issued by his immediate predecessor, David Paterson, that required the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to issue a revised environmental review for proposed new natural-gas development in the Marcellus Shale formation. This was a highly welcome development given that the initial draft document issued by the state in 2009 was fatally flawed in numerous respects, and that, prior to Gov. Paterson’s order, the state appeared to be charging full-speed ahead on permitting new fracking, as the process is commonly known.

Unfortunately, the order from Cuomo indicated that the revised draft document should be completed “on or around June 1, 2011” — a deadline originally put forth by the outgoing Paterson administration. This is, as The New York Times recently editorialized, a “ridiculously short time frame” for completing such a critical analysis. This document will serve as the basis for policy decisions that could affect safe drinking water for New Yorkers, air quality, habitats and the health of those who live in the Marcellus Shale region of the state. Indeed, it will determine what the landscape of the state will look like five or 10 years from now if this heavy new industrial activity is allowed to proceed.

Wednesday’s letter asks that the governor “clearly confirm that the [DEC] will be allowed both adequate time and resources to fully and properly evaluate the full range of potential risks associated with new natural-gas development … before issuing a revised draft” environmental review document. In particular, our groups asked that he not hold the agency to the arbitrary June 1 target date put forth by his predecessor.

The writer is a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, based in New York City. This was adapted from the organization’s staff blog, Switchboard,

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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