This afternoon, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver made good on his promise - highlighted in this great new short film from Josh Fox - to pass a measure requiring the preparation of an independent assessment of the health impacts associated with fracking.
The bill would require a public health school within the State University of New York system to "conduct a comprehensive health impact assessment following a model recommended by the [C]enters for [D]isease [C]ontrol and [P]revention to examine potential public health impacts that could be caused by the extraction of natural gas using horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing."
Earlier this year, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said: "We do not have enough information to say with certainty whether shale gas drilling poses a threat to public health.” He thus urged a comprehensive evaluation of that threat.
The revised draft study prepared by the state Department of Environmental Conservation - which is by its very nature an environmental impact statement - does not contain an independent, systematic evaluation of health impacts. An assessment like this – conducted in accordance with the CDC’s guidelines – would evaluate, among other things, the particularly vulnerable populations in the state and how they might be exposed to risks.
In recognition of this critical information gap, the NYS Assembly has today taken the significant step of compelling the preparation of a fracking health study. It is now incumbent on the state Senate to pass this important measure and for Governor Cuomo to sign it into law. Alternatively, the Governor and DEC can require that an independent health study be prepared on their own initiative.
The risks to the public are simply too great to proceed with any decisions about fracking without a full, independent health impact assessment.