New Scientific Evidence on Fracking's Risks Shows Cuomo Should Stand Firm on Moratorium

NRDC and a coalition of environmental and public health advocacy groups today sent a memo to Governor Cuomo outlining a variety of new scientific evidence showing the magnitude of potential risks from fracking has grown significantly. In light of this new evidence, we are urging the Governor to stand firm in maintaining New York’s moratorium on the controversial practice while the state thoroughly evaluates the science around risks to public health and the environment.

We are further urging him to take the state’s on-going review of health impacts to the next level – by committing to perform a formal health impact assessment that would, among other things, provide for full public participation and input from New York State medical professionals.

This new evidence includes:

  • Evidence linking water contamination to fracking-related activities has increased. New evidence from across the country – in Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Dakota, Kentucky and elsewhere – is increasingly showing that fracking-related drilling, spills and accidents have conclusively resulted in drinking and surface water contamination.
  • The disposal of fracking wastewater has been causally linked to earthquakes. From Ohio to Oklahoma – and with the new prospect of fracking in California on the horizon – the risk of earthquakes from the disposal of fracking wastewater through deep well injection is raising alarm bells.
  • Air quality impacts from fracking-related activities are clearer than ever. They include evidence of unsafe levels of pollutants such as ozone, benzene, and silica dust - pollutants that are linked to costly, disabling health problems.
  • The economic benefits of the fracking boom have been challenged as being over-hyped and short-lived. As the industry has overproduced its own product, driving the price of natural gas down to historic lows, companies have been forced to shut in operations in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

This new information comes to light just days before New  York State GOP Chairman Ed Cox is expected to launch an attack on Governor Cuomo over fracking. Cox will take aim at him for not greenlighting the controversial process quickly, and instead taking the time to evaluate the risks and learn the lessons from the consequences we’ve seen unfold in states around the country.

The evidence also comes out while we learn more about the people who are pushing for fracking to move forward, and insisting that it is safe. A Mother Jones piece out this week revealed that one of the more vocal proponents of fracking (including in New York State)—the deceptively named American Council on Science and Health—is, perhaps not surprisingly, solicits funding from the oil and gas industry, including the American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, and ExxonMobil.

This group—whose Executive Director spent two years in prison for defrauding the NYS Medicare program of $8 million—claims that its mission is to debunk what it calls “junk science” about environmental and public health risks from advocacy groups like NRDC (yes, we’re named specifically on their website – alongside the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Environmental Working Group).

Apparently that includes pursuing scientific literature about the potential health impacts of fracking (presumably diminishing them). It also includes placing an op-ed in The Daily Caller from the group’s founder that states fracking  "doesn't pollute water or air" – while, of course, making no mention of the ACSH’s close industry connections. And, of course, in contradiction to the plethora of emerging evidence cited above and in the green groups’ letter to the Governor.

Fortunately for New Yorkers, Governor Cuomo so far has not been fooled – nor has he caved to pressure, from industry and GOP leaders in the state. He has not been willing to sacrifice our health, quality of life or environment for their gain. He has listened to the people of this state, significantly more of whom oppose fracking moving forward in New York, according to polls. And we are grateful to him for it.

We urge Governor Cuomo to continue to let the real science on fracking be his guide, as he has promised New Yorkers he would.