“Drill deeper, New York” said the Albany Times-Union in a recent 1/15/13 editorial, saying, “with our health and environment on the line, New York still has many issues to address before moving forward on fracking.”
“Perhaps more than any other place in New York, the Capital Region knows that science matters. An unswimmable Hudson and a half-billion dollar PCB dredging project just up the river from Albany are costly proof of what happens when we make decisions on incomplete knowledge. It’s a good time to remember this as New York winds down its review of high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing — popularly known as fracking. There are disturbing signs that, even after more than four years, we don’t have the knowledge to make a fully-informed decision….
The question is simply this: What’s the risk to human health and the environment? We’re not convinced the state Department of Environmental Conservation knows — especially when some scientists and physicians are saying they aren’t sure… Scientists warn that there are many things they don’t yet know about the fracking process. They’re still learning about the effect on human health of constant noise and light from activities like gas drilling. Geologists are looking at a marked rise in earthquakes in some parts of the country where there has been an increase in fracking or deep well drilling for fracking fluid disposal. And some wonder if, when the entire production process is considered, natural gas is as clean as its proponents say.
And then there’s a potentially key document — a health study on fracking that’s being done by the state Department of Health — that has yet to be finished or made public. The state has engaged a group of scientists to review the Health Department study, but that review is secret, too. The DEC says it will consider whether the findings of the Health Department raise any significant issues.
In other words, the public, after getting less than all the information it needed to comment on fracking, could well be shut out of further comment even when that information is revealed. Under the latest timetable, the entire review could wrap up by late February. That timetable is quite simply unfair and inappropriate, given what we now know, and what we don’t.
…Any fair current analysis must return, time and again, to fracking’s still uncertain cost, not just in dollars and cents, but in terms of human health, safe drinking water, and a clean environment. When the stakes are that high, everything we don’t know should be a red flag.