The more you learn about fracking, the less you're going to like it.
Take the Nov. 30 debate, sponsored by The Campbell Public Affairs Institute of Syracuse University, at which Cornell University Professor Robert Howarth and I duked it out with frack supporters Tim Whitesell and Ed Hinchey. A third of the folks who came to the Syracuse debate as pro-frackers changed their minds by the end, having come to understand:
- Fracking's severe, documented impacts on health and the environment.
- The admitted "industrialization" of fracked communities.
- Fracking's frighteningly harmful effects on our climate. And,
- The availability of alternative energy options that would create new jobs and eliminate the need to frack.
The same thing happened at a nationally-televised July 1 debate in Colorado, featuring Riverkeeper's Watershed Program Director Kate Hudson. The number of debate attendees opposed to fracking increased by 40 percent, once they'd heard the facts.
The folks who say "no" to fracking understand that it causes too much damage to our health, environment and community character -- damage that we'd be crazy to pretend isn't real, given the evidence available from over a dozen states that have taken the dangerous gamble on shale gas.
Here in New York, the debate over fracking is entering its final stages. State officials say their fracking decision will come after they hear from three outside experts they've hired to help them review fracking's impact on public health.
Will New York's leaders take fracking's proven health impacts seriously, or are they just going through the motions? Consider these facts:
- Dr. Lynn Goldman, one of the three health experts hired to review the draft environmental impact statement told a reporter that the deadline to complete her review was Dec. 3. She hadn't even received the documents she was charged with reviewing, as of Thanksgiving. Nor have these documents been made public.
- Of the three experts, one is working pro bono and the other two will be compensated for only 25 and 50 hours of work respectively. Relevant studies on fracking and health runs well into the thousands of pages.
- Rather than wait until they'd received and considered the experts' analysis of the health issues, state officials went ahead and released a new set of draft fracking regulations last Friday.
- Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently warned that we don't understand fracking's impact on human health and called for studies that "include all the ways people can be exposed, such as through air, water, soil, plants and animals." Yet New York State Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said this week that he hopes the state will finish its work on fracking by March.
Governor Cuomo admitted that the state has not earned the people's trust on fracking, and it's hard to imagine that a cursory review of fracking's impact on health will earn him that trust, going forward.
New York State needs to release its outside health experts' reports and give the public an opportunity to comment on them, before finalizing its fracking plan. Otherwise, the idea that the public should trust the State on fracking is simply laughable.
Looking at the big picture: Let's hope New York State hasn't already decided to let fracking go forward. If the state takes its commitment to public safety seriously, it will say no to the gas industry, and their biased studies touting fracking. The closer you look, the more you understand that our health, environment and community well-being will suffer serious damage if New York becomes a fracking state.