Why 'Safe' Regulation of Fracking in New York Is a Fiction
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Since NY's Governor Cuomo has long assured the public that science would be the key determinant of whether or not fracking will be allowed in New York, the outcome of the expert Health Review has been presumed to be one of the key factors in his decision.
But the 270,000 unaddressed comments, the lack of planning, the refusal to schedule or attend legally mandated public meetings, and the secrecy around the Health Review process failed to instill confidence in the DEC's ability to competently safeguard public health from the latest in the long parade of untested, unquestioned, and largely unregulated industrial novelties. While it's never been quantified whether fracking's combination of chemicals, radioactivity, heavy metals, ozone, and methane are more health damaging than, say, GMOs or radioactive belt buckles, one thing is certain: No one would not want to participate in a health experiment to find out.
The deeper question is: How can regulators offer assurances that they will "do fracking safely" when as part of the process, they avoid those they serve? DEC Commissioner Joe Martens' reported refusal to reply to written inquiries by Sandra Steingraber, the award-winning PhD scientist and highly regarded advocate and leader, is consistent with the overall pattern of unresponsiveness. As participants and protesters gathered for the recent hearings in Albany, Steingraber approached Martens to speak with him, an entirely appropriate action prior to a public hearing on a topic of public interest. What's inappropriate is that she was threatened with arrest. (You can watch their encounter here.)
When hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers take the time to exercise their rights to engage in a legally mandated approval process with the officials who serve them, responsible officials would want to participate, listen, and act responsively rather than stonewall and send out the muscle. Irresponsible ones should not be regarded as credible when they offer assurances of safety. In the next two weeks, New Yorkers will finally learn what the Health Review covers, what it contains, and whether or not New York State officials will claim that they can regulate fracking. But the history of regulating all toxic industries, including fracking in other states, shows that they can't.