Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
Transparency Battle Unites Fracking Advocates, Opponents

ALBANY — Nearly five years after New York first looked at large-scale hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, both sides of the highly contentious shale-gas-drilling debate have finally reached common ground -- not on policy, but on a perceived lack of transparency.

With a hotly anticipated health analysis of hydrofracking being carried out exclusively behind closed doors, fracking advocates and opponents say they’re becoming increasingly frustrated with a review process that they believe has been cloaked in secrecy.

Various industry representatives, environmental groups, health organizations and state lawmakers have expressed a similar sentiment in interviews over the past week: They’re all in the dark.

“No one -- and certainly no one in industry -- has any idea of what this so-called health review is,” said Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council. “You would think that if there was some sort of comprehensive review being done by the health commissioner, they certainly would at least involve the public, the industry, the environmental groups in what they’re doing.”

Concerns about the openness of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah’s review have surrounded his work since it was first launched last September and have only intensified in recent months. Little has been publicly released on the analysis, which -- according to Cuomo -- will guide an ultimate decision on whether to allow high-volume fracking in New York.

The Department of Health did not respond over the past several days to a detailed set of questions from Gannett’s Albany Bureau on the state of its review of fracking, a gas-stimulation process that proponents say could help boost the struggling upstate economy while opponents warn of potential environmental degradation.

Last September, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said he had asked Shah to “assess the (DEC’s) health impact analysis” on fracking and to “identify the most qualified outside experts to advise him in his review.”
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