12/5/12

Mantius: Andrew Cuomo is our Tom Corbett

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, ignoring the concerns of doctors alarmed by the public health risks of hydrofracking, released draft fracking regulations on November 20 without reviewing the potential impacts of hydrofracking on human health.

Those regulations will be final in 90 days, after a 30-day comment period running from mid-December to mid-January.

Cuomo talks the talk about science-driven decision-making on fracking, but walks the walk of a front man for the gas drilling industry, said the Corning Leader's Pete Mantius.

In doing the gas drilling industry's bidding, Cuomo has ignored the warnings of doctors, scientists, and public health advocates based on evidence from the fracking fields of Texas, Wyoming, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and other states.

Fracking creates billions of gallons of contaminated wastewater laced with toxic chemicals and radioactive elements that pose an imminent threat to public drinking water supplies. Regularly inhaling the the super-fine sand used in fracking can cause progressive lung disease.

New York doctors have repeatedly made their case for a rigorous independent Health Impact Assessment of fracking.  They've gone to Albany and testified before the state Assembly.  They've written to Cuomo demanding action.

But Cuomo isn't listening.

Throwing a bone to the medical community, Cuomo in September ordered an in-house study by Dr. Nivah Shah, commissioner of the Cuomo administration's Department of Health. A few weeks later, Cuomo, in a move Mantius called "rent-a-credential", tried to boost Shah’s credibility by hiring an academic team to bolster his conclusions. But before the team got the chance to comment on Shah's report, the Cuomo administration's Department of Environmental Conservation posted the fracking rules.

The backlash that followed pushed the Cuomo administration into damage control mode.  Last week, the DEC issued a statement saying that despite the rush job on the regulations, the state hadn't formally decided that allow fracking.  The decision whether or not to allow fracking, it said, was in Shah's hands.

It's "laughable", Mantius said, that Cuomo would try to pin the fracking decision on Shah, when Cuomo, his DEC and his DOH jointly own it. 

The DEC has known, since at least 2009, that fracking poses a public health threat. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that same year, recommended “greater emphasis” on human health in the DEC's draft regulations, elevating DOH to equal status with the DEC in preparing the final document.

That didn't happen.

In early 2011, hundreds of physicians, scientists and health organizations signed a letter to Shah asking him to seek co-lead status for his DOH in the SGEIS process.

Shah did nothing.

In the summer of 2011, with Shah inert, doctors and scientists pushed Cuomo for an independent health impact assessment of fracking, which brings us back to the beginning of this post.

Cuomo is looking more and more like fracking puppet Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, bought and paid for by the drilling industry, said Mantius.

The column from the Corning Leader.

More flack from Capital New York.

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