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DEC promises gas drilling health study; mixed reaction from environmentalists

By Fritz Mayer
September 26, 2012

ALBANY, NY — A press release with the headline, “Commissioner Joseph Martens Rejects Call For ‘Independent’ Health Study of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing,” from the commissioner of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that “NYS Health Commissioner Nirav Shah has agreed to assess the department's health impact analysis,” regarding gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, garnering advice from the most qualified “outside experts.”

In the release, Martens acknowledged that environmental groups were calling for an outside group to conduct a health survey. He said he rejected that demand because it would be “an inappropriate delegation of a governmental responsibility.” He also said the new rules regarding fracking would not be released until the health review was completed.

Environmentalists and health experts have long been calling for an in-depth health analysis of fracking, and while this is not what they had in mind, some of them have the view that it might be a positive step.

Riverkeeper, a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries, responded to the announcement with a press release of their own which said, in part, “We are confident that Commissioner Shah’s review, if done comprehensively, objectively and with the help of truly qualified outside experts, will reveal significant omissions in DEC’s analysis and show why fracking cannot be allowed to move forward in New York.

“Riverkeeper urges the state to fearlessly pursue the best science, not just the best way to prepare for litigation, and to include the public, and in particular communities at risk, in its review and decision-making process when it comes to fracking and health.”

The reference to litigation is a response to a sentence from Marten, which said, “I believe it is highly likely that some of these groups will pursue litigation following the conclusion of the departmental process if they do not agree with the outcome.”

But, while Riverkeeper seems prepared to take a wait and see attitude to the announcement, which was released on September 20, other groups do not trust the DEC to do the right thing when it comes to fracking.

JLCNY represents 77,000 pro drilling landowners?

Dear Fritz Mayer,

I was wondering if you, or anyone, has independently verified that number, or, are you simply repeating a "membership" figure stated by JLCNY? Then, I ask, is "membership" the equivalence to "being represented" by JLCNY.

I personally know many people who are "members" of NWPOA, but are not "represented" by NWPOA, that is, these people paid the original $25 or so "dues", but have not leased, nor do they wish to.

I also know members who felt coerced into leasing, who only own several acres, but were surrounded by want to be lessors of large properties,so they hoped to be better protected by joining NWPOA in the lease agreement. They oppose shale gas extraction, however, and truly want no part of this potential industrialization of their surroundings.

They are not 'represented' by NWPOA's lobbying efforts.

Please let me know. Thank you.

James Barth

Joint Landowners Coalition of New York

Dear James:

I don't know if the 77,000 figure for members is correct; I have not verified it. It's the figure they repeatedly use in their releases and emails.

On their latest press release they said "Our 77,000 NY landowners," which leaves it a bit ambiguous.

Regards,
Fritz

JLCNY membership

Dear Fritz,

Thank you for the explanation.

All the Best,

James