Health Professionals, National and Statewide Leaders Applaud Gov. Cuomo’s Fracking Time Out, Urge Gov. to Await Fracking Public Health Studies’ Conclusions before Making Decision

Letter’s Signatories Call for NY State-Specific Health Impact Assessment and Public Participation in Health Review Process

Hundreds of medical professionals, health organizations, environmental, national and statewide leaders, and a hundred and fifty elected officials released a letter today calling on Governor Cuomo to let three public health studies cited by New York State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Nirav Shah conclude, open the state’s health review to public participation, and to conduct a New York-specific Health Impact Assessment before making a decision on fracking.

Signatories to the letter include health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, District ll New York State, American Lung Association in NewYork, Clean Air Council, Breast Cancer Action, and Concerned Health Professionals of NY. More than a hundred medical and scientific experts including Jerome A. Paulson MD FAAP, Director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health & the Environment, Theo Colborn PhD, President The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, and George Woodwell PhD, NRDC Distinguished Scientist and founder of Woods Hole Research Center. Additionally, 150 elected officials are among the signatories, many environmental and public interest groupsincluding Environmental Advocates of New York, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, 350.org, Working Families Party, and CitizensCampaign for the Environment, and notable individuals including LoisGibbs, Gloria Steinem, Pete Seeger, Bill McKibben, Melissa Leo, and Mark Ruffalo.

Commissioner Shah, whose agency is conducting a review of fracking’s public health impacts, recently announced that he needed more time for his agency to finish its review. Shah also said “the time to ensure the impacts on public health are considered is before a state permits drilling,” and cited three studies – U.S. EPA’s study, Geisinger Health Systems’ study, and the University of Pennsylvania’s (in collaboration with scientists from Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Harvard andUniversity of North Carolina) study – as representing the first comprehensive studies of fracking’s health impacts at either the federal or state level.

Making a decision on fracking in New York State without waiting for these studies’ results makes no sense. There is limited data and knowledge about exposure pathways or why people across the country are reporting illness from fracking. More study is necessary to understand these issues, as well as New York-specificconcerns, in order to make an informed decision.

“We appreciate Governor Cuomo calling a ‘time out’ so that long-standing questions about health effects can be answered,” said Sandra Steingraber a biologist and founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York.  “As Commissioner Shah noted, there are three comprehensive studies being undertaken.  New York should wait for those studies and open its own health study up to public comment.”

“On behalf of the over 6000 pediatricians in New York state that take care of our most valuable resource, our children, I would like to applaud the Governor for allowing the scientific process to be completed before issuing any permits to allow for high volume hydraulic fracturing," said George Dunkel, Executive Director of American Academy of Pediatrics, District II/NY. "I need to stress that the children are not just small adults—children are affected much more acutely and are more vulnerable to environmental toxins than adults.  We thank the Governor for allowing this most important process to be completed and for his commitment to the children of New York."

“Too many New Yorkers get sick and die prematurely because air pollution levels are too high,” said Michael Seilback Vice President of Public Policy and Communications at the American Lung Association in New York.  “High volume hydrofracking has the potential to  make things worse - worse for those living in areas where thousands of diesel trucks will commute daily and worse for the thousands of New Yorkers who will be exposed to deadly emissions from drilling in areas that have not previously had elevated levels of air pollution.  While we've made tremendous progress in cleaning our air, 3.2 million New Yorkers still live in areas where unhealthy air threatens theirlives and health, as shown in the Lung Association’s State of the Air 2012 report.  We are asking Governor Cuomo to wait until experts have finished examining the science before making any decisions.  Please, make no decision until health questions are answered and health concerns are addressed: the lungs of millions of New Yorkers depend on it.” 

"The medical community of New York has been calling for comprehensive health studies for two years, and these should be completed prior to the decision on shale gas extraction.  We are grateful that the Governor agrees with Dr. Shah to make public health the priority," said Dr. Larysa Dyrszka.  "To accomplish that, it is critically important that the health review is put on hold until the studies Dr. Shah cites are completed and fully reviewed.  Further, there must be public comment and participation, and at least one public hearing on the current NY State health review.  And finally, all the concerns raised by the public and the medical community need to be addressed as part of a comprehensive and transparent Health Impact Assessment."

“The gas industry has spent millions of dollars to bully Governor Cuomo into supporting its companies’ bottom line by opening the state to fracking,”said Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Program Director at Environmental Advocates of New York.  “But the Governor stood up to the gas giants on behalf of average New Yorkers who have serious unanswered questions about fracking’s safety.   We look forward to an open public process that will undoubtedly accompany a health study, as the only way to answer the tough questions Dr. Shah raised is by shedding light on the state’s deliberations.”

To date, the Cuomo administration has not done a health study of fracking. Instead, three outside experts have been hired to help with a narrow, internal review written by the state. The administration has not released any substantial information to the public on its review and the medical and scientific community has not had an opportunity to comment or contribute.

The letter can be viewed at: http://concernedhealthny.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Gov-Cuomo-Letter-Final.pdf.