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Anti-Frackers Visit DEC

no frack demoA crowd of around 100 people of all ages turned out in the cold today at the Department of Environmental Conservation office at 270 Michigan Avenue this morning to show their opposition to high-volume horizontal fracturing in New York State. Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes were among those addressing the enthusiastic crowd.

Here’s the press release from Rita Yelda, organizer with Food and Water Watch:

Buffalo, NY – As Governor Cuomo weighs whether to allow fracking in New York State, local State Assembly Members joined the New Yorkers Against Fracking coalition to call on the Governor to lift the shroud of secrecy hanging over his administration’s fracking review process. The Cuomo administration’s fracking review has been one of the most secretive processes in our state’s history. This is particularly alarming given that fracking stands to affect a majority of New Yorkers – through health impacts, economic impacts and environmental impacts – in an unprecedented way.

The Cuomo administration announced in September that the NYS Department of Health (DOH) would review an internal DEC review of health impacts of fracking. The DEC’s review was produced in (and still is) secret. Though clearly an acknowledgment of the inadequacy of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (sGEIS), the DOH’s review was far from the independent, comprehensive health impact assessment called for by experts, elected officials and the public. It amounts to nothing more than a secret internal review of the DEC’s secret internal review.

“A rigorous, comprehensive, open, and participatory Health Impact Assessment will need to be done before New York has enough information to move forward with any recommendations regarding fracking. The water and air of New Yorkers is far too precious to risk the health of our children and future generations. We need the H.I.A. to be done appropriately before even considering moving forward,” stated Assembly Member Peoples-Stokes.

“While I am pleased that a Department of Health review is underway, I remain concerned about the lack of transparency coming from the DOH and the DEC. Medical experts, doctors, and scientists all need to be fully integrated into this process. New Yorkers deserve a fully public process, because their health and well-being are certain to be affected by fracking,” said Assembly Member Sean Ryan.

“Rather than undertake a comprehensive health impact assessment of fracking, the Cuomo administration instead hired outside experts to review its own internal health evaluation, but released revised regulations before completion of the health review and has refused to release any substantial information on the review – placing gag orders on the outside experts,” added Rita Yelda of New Yorkers Against Fracking.

The inadequacy of the administration’s non-transparent and flawed review was highlighted during the recent release of revised regulations and the 30-day comment period that followed. The regulations should never have been released given that the state has not finished the health review, has not done a true socioeconomic analysis, and has not allowed for public participation in each of these processes. To release regulations that are supposedly based on the science prior to the completion of a scientific review constitutes an absurdity that breaks the public trust.

The religious, student and advocacy organizations at the event demanded that the Cuomo administration open the secret health review being conducted by the Department of Health public comment and participation.

“Let us give thanks to our God and the earth for all its gifts to us by protecting the earth from the harmful practice of fracking and redirecting our efforts and resources into clean, renewable energy production,” said Sister Christelle Sawicki,CSSF, who serves as the Justice and Peace Coordinator for Region 1 East of Our Lady of Hope Province of North America.

“Governor Cuomo must not ignore the demand to allow the regulations to expire and not move forward with fracking. He says he supports fair elections and he wants corporate money influence out of the electoral process. Fair elections ensure that we get leaders who are unbought by fracking interests, and unbossed by oil and gas corporations. Now a moment of truth for the Governor. Is he the Governor for oil and gas corporations or is he the Governor for clean air and clean water for all?,” added Jim Anderson, Vice President of Citizen Action NY.

“Students have been at the forefront of some of the most important campaigns of our time, including the civil rights movement, anti war movement, and the women’s rights movement. Fracking is no different. This is the environmental movement of our generation, and students over the last few years have fought and will continue to fight until they are sure that fracking won’t ruin New York State’s environment,” stated Patricia Cervole, NYPIRG Project Coordinator at Buffalo State College.

For the revised regulations, a lengthy and technical document, the public was given only 30 days to comment, with no public information sessions or hearings. Worse still, those 30 days overlapped with major national and religious holidays. This constitutes an arbitrary and capricious process that breaks the Cuomo administration’s promises to the people of New York to exercise an open, transparent and rigorous process in the state’s review of fracking.

The fact that the DEC received such an historic number of public comments despite these obstacles highlights the public’s grave concern about fracking. As the DEC has not fulfilled the aforementioned necessities and must carefully consider all public comments, there is no way that it can meet the February 27, 2013 deadline for completion of the regulations. The group called on Governor Cuomo to assure the public that the regulations will be allowed to expire and that fracking not move forward in the state.