NY groups want details on fracking health study

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm •  Published: December 18, 2012
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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A coalition of environmental groups on Tuesday called on state officials to release details of a health impact study for shale gas drilling and a procedure that involves blasting chemical-laden water deep into the ground.

Representatives of a dozen prominent organizations signed a letter to Health Commissioner Nirav Shah and Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens. They asked them to make public the health impact study being evaluated by a scientific panel, and they called for public hearings and a 60-day public comment period on the health study.

A DEC spokeswoman referred questions to the health department, which didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The DEC did the health study as part of an environmental impact review of shale gas development started in July 2008 and expected to be completed within a few months.

Shale gas development often involves a drilling procedure called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Large volumes of water, along with sand and hazardous chemicals, are injected underground to break rock apart and free the oil and gas. The energy industry says the procedure has been used safely for years, but environmentalists, homeowners and other critics say it can pollute water supplies. One of the biggest shale deposits, the Marcellus Shale lies, under parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.

Martens announced in September that he was rejecting demands from health and environmental groups to commission a comprehensive health impact study by university experts on shale gas development. Such a study likely would scrutinize the potential for myriad health impacts, from diesel exhaust air pollution to sexually transmitted diseases spread by out-of-state well site workers.

Instead, Martens said he had asked Shah to review the health impacts identified by the DEC in its environmental study and commission a panel of nationally recognized experts to weigh in as well.