Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
State promises to provide fracking documents by Nov. 3

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2014 10:09 am

GENEVA — The latest promise from the state Department of Health is to provide all requested documents on a hydrofracking health impact assessment to the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association by Nov. 3.

That’s the latest development in a two-year battle between SLPWA and the DOH over a Freedom of Information Law request for documentation on the controversial issue.

“For the past five years, SLPWA has been concerned about the impact of high volume hydraulic fracturing technology for natural gas drilling on the health and environment of Seneca Lake and its residents,’’ said Mary Anne Kowalski of Romulus, SLPWA president.

“Our concerns have been expressed in public letters to our elected representatives at the state and national levels. They are available on our website,’’ Kowalski said.

She said the organization has responded publicly to requests for comments on draft documents, such as the proposed regulations for hydrofracking and the draft supplemental generic impact statements.

“This communication has been one-way,’’ Kowalski said.

There has been an occasional acknowledgment of a letter from a legislator but never anything from the governor’s office or the state DOH or Department of Environmental Conservation, added Rachel Treichler, attorney for SLPWA.

Treichler said since 2009 the group has been frustrated in its attempt to understand what the state is doing about developing a comprehensive health impact assessment of hydrofracking, which the organization says needs to be part of any draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement.

That led to SLPWA filing several FOIL requests for information. Kowalski said they were initially rejected, then appealed, and after a year of non-response by the DOH, SLPWA sued the department Sept. 1, 2013, for lack of response to its FOIL requests.

Treichler said after the lawsuit was filed, the Health Department signed an agreement to provide the requested documents, including emails, by April 1, 2014.

“We have been provided with published articles and a film, all of which were already in the public domain. E-mail and other unpublished documents have not been provided,’’ Treichler said. “Documents provided to date do not satisfy the Health Department’s obligations under FOIL.’’

They said the relevant emails have been repeatedly promised and then the date of providing them rescheduled. The latest date for producing the documents is Nov. 3.

SLPWA said the court proceedings dealing with the lawsuit have followed the same pattern as the FOIL request — delay after delay on promises that are not fulfilled.

The organization gave credit to the Cuomo administration for not allowing hydrofracking to be used in the state and for apparently studying the process and its impacts diligently.

“However, they are shielding from public view the details of their assessment process. A comprehensive health impact assessment should be a participative public process,’’ Kowalski said. “It is a process that has been used in other states and has been studied and recommended by the national academies.

“Yet this administration does not wish the public to be part of this process and will share no information about it, even finding ways to frustrate the exercise of he very law designed to allow public access to information, the FOIL.”

SLPWA plans to report on what it receives from the state Nov. 3.

Mary Anne Kowalski

Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment -