EWG Responds to Report that New York is About to Approve Fracking
Washington, D.C. -- Environmental Working Group Senior Counsel Dusty Horwitt issued the following statement on the Albany Times-Union’s Aug. 4, 2012 report that the Cuomo administration will soon approve hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in New York state:
“The Cuomo administration appears to be close to taking a multi-billion-dollar gamble with New Yorkers’ drinking water, health and home values by moving ahead with shale gas drilling before Labor Day. This would be a mistake. The administration ought to take the time to conduct badly-needed research to answer critical questions such as: How close to water supplies can natural gas drilling be done safely, especially when industry studies show that well casings routinely leak? What risks does radon in natural gas pose to drilling workers and consumers? How can millions of gallons of toxic wastewater be safely disposed of?
“EWG and New York-based Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy released a report in June detailing the ten top scientific shortcomings with the state’s draft drilling plan. Resolving many of these issues will require careful on-the-ground research. It is, at best, uncertain whether the state has taken steps to do so. The Times Union reports that at least two major flaws have not been addressed – and won’t be – before drilling begins: No new staff will be hired to regulate drilling and no new regulations will be issued for disposal of toxic wastewater.
“Documents recently obtained by EWG under a freedom of information request suggest that the Cuomo administration’s proposed lax regulation of the drilling industry is no accident. The documents show that last year, the administration shared at least some of its detailed draft rules with the industry prior to making them public. This one-sided access gave drilling companies a behind-the-scenes opportunity to weaken at least one requirement of the draft plan and raised questions about what other influence the drillers might have had. While state regulators have essentially claimed that they were required to share this information with the regulated industry, nowhere in the law does it say that regulators must share detailed regulatory proposals or specific permit language with industry – and only with industry – outside of the public’s eye.
“EWG has since asked the administration to fill troubling gaps in the record that could shed more light on whether the industry was able to exercise undue influence. For example, records show that on several occasions officials of the Department of Environmental Conservation promised to send industry representatives documents detailing draft regulations or other internal information. EWG did not receive these documents as part of its initial request that asked for all communications between seven top Cuomo administration officials and some two-dozen drilling industry representatives. EWG has requested the documents specifically as part of a follow-up request. State officials say that they are unlikely to respond to EWG’s request for this additional information until Oct. 5, long after the Cuomo administration is likely to make its decision on shale gas drilling.
“Gov. Cuomo promised a shale gas drilling review that was fair, transparent and science-based. So far, his administration has failed to meet that standard.”