Groups: Cuomo must not rush ahead on fracking - take the time to get it right

Governor Cuomo must not rush the decision process when it comes to proposed fracking in New York State. That’s what more than 40 environmental, public health, conservation, sportsmen, and good government interests from across New York State urged in a letter to the Governor this morning, calling on him to ensure that the state will not allow risky new fracking in the Marcellus Shale until the complete range of potential impacts have been fully evaluated.

As I have previously blogged, in January Governor Cuomo reissued an executive order issued by former Governor David Paterson that required the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to issue a revised environmental review for proposed new gas development in the Marcellus Shale formation.  This was a highly welcome development given that the initial draft document issued by the state in the fall of 2009 was fatally flawed in numerous respects, and that, prior to Governor Paterson’s order, the state appeared to be charging full-speed ahead on permitting new fracking.

Unfortunately, the order 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 5 or 10 years from now if this heavy new industrial activity is allowed to proceed.

Today’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, 2011 target date put forth by his predecessor.

Recent news reports have quoted DEC as indicating that it will issue the revised draft document “this summer.”  This vague timeframe, too, is grossly inadequate in view of, as the group letter put it: “the devastating staffing and budgetary cuts to which DEC has been subject over the past several years, the highly complicated and technical nature of the issues, the dearth of existing independent scientific research, and the numerous deficiencies in the current” document.

Notably, the wide array of national, state and grassroots groups that signed onto today’s letter do not all see eye-to-eye as to how, when, to what extent – or even if – fracking should proceed in New York State.  Yet all came together in vigorous agreement that one thing the state absolutely must do is ensure that its analysis of the risks not be rushed or shortchanged.

Governor Cuomo has the chance to get it right. He must take all the time he needs to ensure fracking is not allowed to proceed until proven safe. The consequences of rushing ahead in New York – as we’ve seen around the country – are too grave to do otherwise.

TAKE ACTION: You can join the dozens of groups who wrote to Governor Cuomo today by sending a letter to Governor Cuomo here, telling him to protect New York’s drinking water supplies.  Industry is pressuring the governor and DEC to rush to give fracking a green light.  They must hear from as many people as possible to reiterate what polls have demonstrated: most New Yorkers do not want new gas drilling unless and until it can first be demonstrated to be safe.