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April 19, 2014
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Sullivan legislature calls for fracking health study


Critics of gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in New York State have long been calling for a study on the possible impacts the process can have on human health. While there is some support for the idea among elected officials in Albany, so far state officials have not been willing to go in that direction.

During the budget process earlier this year, the Assembly specified that $100,000 should be used to pay for such a study, but the senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo removed it from consideration.

Now Sullivan County is adding its voice to a growing number of organizations that are calling for a health impact study. At the government center on April 26, the legislature took up the matter of a non-binding resolution calling for state officials to impose a moratorium on gas drilling and fracking, and to conduct further studies of the process, which should include a public health assessment.

During the public comment period before the vote, Larysa Dyrszka, a retired pediatrician and a member of Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (SACRED), noted that Sullivan County came in at 61 out of 62 in a recent listing of health rankings of counties in the state, and said the residents of the county could not afford to be exposed to increased air pollution and toxic substances.

On the other side of the issue, Sondra Bauernfeind, the former chair of the Sullivan County Conservative Party, said that according to the Environmental Protection Agency, “there is no danger from fracking, just like climate change; there is no such thing as global warming.”

Al Larson, founder of the Bethel Landowners Coalition, noted that the methods of drilling have been greatly improved over the past four or five years, and that economic conditions in the county are not good, and the economic impacts of drilling could benefit residents, as well as local governments.

Bruce Ferguson, a member of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, said that the gas industry was building eight liquid natural gas facilities in the country to enable gas to be shipped overseas. He said countries such as France, that have banned fracking because of its danger, would purchase the gas that was produced in this country.

Ultimately, the vote from the nine legislators was unanimous in supporting the resolution.

More money for green

The board also voted to increase the funding for Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (SASD), the non-profit organization that has been serving as a consultant to the county on matters of alternative energy and related matters.
The original agreement called for the county to grant $25,000 for the organization for 2012, the amended agreement calls for that amount to be increased to up to $60,000.

The vote for the increase was eight to one, with legislator Jonathan Rouis voting no because all of the other non-profit organizations that received funds from the county had been asked to accept a 15% reduction this year because of the tight budget and, therefore, the increase for SASD was not equitable.