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Letter To Governor: Science, Economics

Don’t Support Allowing Fracking In NY

HOMETOWN ONEONTA/The Freeman’s Journal

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 19-20

Editor’s Note: Governor Cuomo revealed Monday, Dec. 15, on WCNY TV’s “Capitol Pressroom” that a fracking decision may be forthcoming by the end of the month, prompting this letter signed by 140 members of Elected Officials to Protect New York, including 25 from Otsego County, to send this letter to the governor the following day.

What has happened – what have we learned – since 2012?

The current “health review” notwithstanding, the necessary studies have not been done and the standard of safety for all of New York has clearly not been met. There has been no additional review or analysis by the DEC concerning cumulative environmental impacts or socioeconomic costs, at least none that has been made public.

New information that is publicly available includes new concerns about direct and collateral damage from fracking, and anecdotal evidence has become empirical data. Currently the independent group Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy has cataloged more than 400 peer reviewed studies on fracking and its related activities, nearly all demonstrating harm.

The body of evidence on health impacts is significant and growing, including links to:

• high levels of ozone;

• a range of dangerous toxins in high concentrations in ambient air near fracking infrastructure, including formaldehyde and the carcinogen benzene; and

• numerous water and air pollutants (including carcinogenic radon) that pose a direct threat to human and animal health – we will need companies like Radon One to make sure we aren’t being exposed to harmful levels of air pollution.

The list of environmental issues goes on, with significant impacts across the country, including:

• Anecdotal accounts of fouled wells became 248 confirmed of cases of water contamination, ultimately acknowledged by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

• Other states have also suffered surface and groundwater contamination; and explosions, leaks, spills, and blowouts are common.

• More data and studies reveal that well casing and integrity failures are endemic problems without a solution – meaning that a significant percentage of wells will leak gas and chemicals into groundwater and the atmosphere.

• Early concerns about seismic impacts and earthquakes, associated not just with injection wells – but with fracking itself – have been confirmed.

• Climate change has made extreme weather events and flooding more common, a disaster when combined with fracking sites.

• One of the biggest unresolved issues is how to responsibly handle the enormous quantities of toxic wastewater created along with radioactive drilling wastes. Sending this waste to Ohio’s injection wells, to New York landfills, or spreading it on roads (illegally, or under a “beneficial use determination”) is environmentally irresponsible and completely unsustainable.

A great deal of attention has been given to potential economic benefits of fracking, but time has confirmed much of the initial skepticism over promised jobs and overstated economic benefits.

• In Pennsylvania, only a fraction of the promised jobs materialized; many of them temporary and filled by out of state workers.

• Royalty payments have fallen far short of what many landowners were promised due to “creative business restructuring” by drillers.

• Serious socioeconomic impacts have been documented, among them: rising violent crime, traffic fatalities, enormous amounts of heavy truck traffic, and strain on volunteer first responders.

• Financial institutions and insurance companies have identified threats to mortgages and home insurance, potentially undermining municipal tax bases.

As we have noted before, New York State’s review of the economics of fracking is not only inadequate, but one-sided, reporting inflated potential benefits and neglecting entirely to analyze negative municipal or economic impacts.

Any review of the evidence on fracking that is truly based on science, rather than politics, must also include a hard look at the contribution of this industry to climate change. New research since 2012 gives reason to expect that fracking accelerates climate change. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 86 times worse than carbon dioxide for the first 20 years it is in the atmosphere. Fugitive emissions of methane occur as part of the fracking process, along the pipelines, and in distribution lines under city streets. As we know that time is running out to stop the disastrous upward trend of global warming, an acknowledgement of fracking’s contribution to climate change should factor into your decision. You have made laudable initiatives to promote renewable energy, the right path forward for New York.

Allowing fracking now would clearly roll back that crucial good work.

Hundreds of health professionals, scientists, and numerous medical societies have reviewed the science, and based on that review, have asked for a firm moratorium of at least three to five years.

We strongly “second” this motion and believe anything less would be negligent.

Our call today for a firm, extended moratorium is in line with our original 2012 request to you. We need to know the real impacts to public health, the cumulative environmental impacts, and the true costs versus the benefits to our local economies. These questions, among others, remain unanswered. Furthermore, new, critical scientific studies are underway or planned; an extended moratorium allows the time for these answers to come forth.

Governor Cuomo, we acknowledge and appreciate the restraint and caution you have shown thus far.

Given your vow to protect the water and ensure the health of all New Yorkers, a longer term moratorium is the right path to take.



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