AP | By By MARY ESCH Posted: 12/18/2012 4:33 pm EST | Updated: 12/18/2012 5:20 pm EST in Huff Post
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A coalition of environmental groups called on New York state officials Tuesday to release details of a health impact study for shale gas drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
Representatives of a dozen prominent organizations signed a letter to Health Commissioner Nirav Shah and Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens. They asked them to make public the health impact study being evaluated by a scientific panel, and called for public hearings and a 60-day public comment period on the health study.
A DEC spokeswoman referred questions to the health department, which didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
DEC did the health study as part of an environmental impact review of shale gas development which started in July 2008 and is expected to be completed within a few months.
Martens announced in September that he was rejecting demands from health and environmental groups to commission a comprehensive health impact study by university experts on shale gas development. Such a study would likely scrutinize the potential for myriad health impacts, from diesel exhaust air pollution to sexually transmitted diseases spread by out-of-state well site workers.
Instead, Martens said he had asked Shah to review the health impacts identified by DEC in its environmental study and commission a panel of nationally recognized experts to weigh in as well.
No details of DEC's health impact assessment have been made public. It was not included in the 1,500-page draft environmental impact study released in September 2011. That document and an earlier version released in 2009 generated more than 80,000 public comments.
"To be valid and meaningful, it is absolutely critical that the health review process provide a genuine opportunity for input by local, county and New York State medical and public health professionals," the letter from the environmental coalition says.
With the health impact review still pending, DEC released revised drilling regulations for public comment on Dec. 12 and is taking comments until Jan. 11. The environmental groups also criticized that decision, saying the health review should come first.
Groups signing the letter include Catskill Mountainkeeper, Common Cause, Environmental Advocates, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Adirondack Mountain Club, among others.