Yesterday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a rare cabinet meeting to discuss a variety of issues. The main focus of the meeting, however, was to announce Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking in New York. NY State Dept. of Health Howard Zucker presented his agency’s “review” of so-called impacts of fracking on public health. The entire charade was well-scripted to insulate Cuomo from the decision to ban fracking in the state, making it seem as if “science” has determined fracking is not safe. Zucker recounted the process his agency pursued in reviewing available studies and evidence of the possible affects of shale drilling on those who live near it. Zucker’s repeated claim was that there is not enough evidence, not enough “gold standard” studies thus far, to prove that fracking is not a health risk. Zucker intentionally chose prove a negative, which is a logical fallacy (you can’t prove a negative). Immediately following Zucker’s dog and pony show, NY Commissioner for the Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Joe Martens, said a) with all of the town bans happening, fracking would only be allowed in maybe 30% of the state, that the economic benefits are far less than originally thought, and b) given Zucker’s findings that fracking may not be safe, he (Martens) would close out the draft regulations, known as the SGEIS, and that he (Martens) would not allow fracking for the foreseeable future. Cuomo pretentiously said, “I don’t even think I have a role here.” Below we have the “report” from Zucker, a video of the cabinet meeting, and reaction to this carefully scripted and choreographed decision…
Here’s how the anti-drilling Albany Times Union reported the meeting:
Acting state Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Wednesday morning he would not recommend high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York state.
Zucker unveiled his findings as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet meeting early Wednesday afternoon. While Zucker took pains to point out that the data on long-term impacts of hydrofracking is not fully conclusive, he turned personal in his decision.
“Would I live in a community with HVHF (high-volume hydraulic fracturing) based on the facts I have now?” Zucker said. “Would I let my child play in the school field nearby, or my family drink the water from the tap or grow their vegetables in the soil? After looking at a plethora of reports … my answer is no.”
Cuomo called those comments the most powerful of Zucker’s presentation. The decision comes after 4,500 hours of study by the department, Zucker said. The health review was initially requested in 2012.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation will now complete the SEQR process by publishing a final study by early next year, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said.
“I will then issue a legally binding finding statement prohibiting HVHF in New York state at this time,” he said.
Cuomo said earlier in the meeting that he would be bound to whatever the “experts” decided “because I am not in a position to second-guess them with my expertise.”
In a Q&A with reporters at the end of the cabinet meeting, Cuomo said the decision is not political.
“It can’t be political — it’s after the election.” he said.(1)
What a pompous ass. Does Cuomo actually think we will believe this was not a 100% political decision? Give us a break!
Here is the press release issued by the DOH shortly after the cabinet meeting, showing a carefully coordinated effort to get the news out and then manage it to reduce potential damage to Cuomo:
The state Department of Health has completed its public health review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) and Acting DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker recommended that high-volume hydraulic fracturing should not move forward in New York State. Dr. Zucker announced his findings and recommendations today at a Cabinet Meeting in Albany.
“I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered,” said Dr. Zucker. “I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done. I asked myself, ‘would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”
In 2012, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens asked the DOH Commissioner to conduct a review of the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (SGEIS). Dr. Zucker’s report fulfills that request.
As a result of Dr. Zucker’s report, Commissioner Martens stated at the Cabinet Meeting today that he will issue a legally binding findings statement that will prohibit HVHF in New York State at this time.
“For the past six years, DEC has examined the significant environmental impacts that could result from high-volume hydraulic fracturing,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “DEC’s own review identified dozens of potential significant adverse impacts of HVHF. Further, with the exclusion of sensitive natural, cultural and historic resources and the increasing number of towns that have enacted bans and moratoria, the risks substantially outweigh any potential economic benefits of HVHF. Considering the research, public comments, relevant studies, Dr. Zucker’s report and the enormous record DEC has amassed on this issue, I have directed my staff to complete the final SGEIS. Once that is complete, I will prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State at this time.”
DEC will incorporate the findings of the public health review into the Final SGEIS, which will be released with a response to public comments early next year. A minimum of 10 days later, Commissioner Martens will issue the findings statement prohibiting HVHF. This action will conclude the State Environmental Quality Review Act process for HVHF.
DOH’s review found significant uncertainties about: the adverse health outcomes that may be associated with HVHF; the likelihood of occurrence of adverse health outcomes; and the adequacy of mitigation measures to protect public health. DOH’s report concludes that it will be years until science and research provide sufficient information to determine the level of risk HVHF poses to public health and whether those risks can be adequately mitigated. Given the red flags raised by current studies, absent conclusive studies that disprove health concerns, the report states the activity should not proceed in New York State.
In conducting its public health review, DOH reviewed and evaluated scientific literature, sought input from outside public health experts, engaged in field visits and discussions with health and environmental authorities in nearly all states where HVHF activity is taking place, and communicated with local, state, federal, international, academic, environmental and public health stakeholders. DOH’s review can be found at: //www.health.ny.gov/press/reports/docs/high_volume_hydraulic_fracturing.pdf
At the Cabinet meeting, Governor Cuomo thanked the Commissioners and their respective departments for their work.(2)
The negative reaction was swift, starting with western NY Congressman Chris Collins:
“Governor Cuomo has just denied the people of New York a tremendous economic opportunity in order to appease far left environmentalists for his own political gain,” said Congressman Collins. “The Governor continues to hide behind Albany bureaucrats and controversial scientific studies to stand against hardworking New Yorkers who deserve the job opportunities and economic growth fracking has clearly produced in other states, including neighboring Pennsylvania. This is a sad day for the future of the economy in Upstate New York.”(3)
The response from the 70,000-member Joint Landowners Coalition of New York:
Dan Fitzsimmons, President of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York said: “Today Governor Cuomo once again turned his back on the hard working men and women of the Southern Tier, opting instead to appease the state’s environmental extremists for his own political gain. Governor Cuomo rejected lower taxes, lower utility bills, job creation, business growth, clean affordable energy and domestic power generation. He used local zoning as one of many excuses for today’s decision but failed to explain why his administration sat idle while NY courts obliterated our state’s right to regulate drilling. Today the world saw why New York ranks last in every national economic measure and why this Governor is the worst energy leader in the country.”
“Governor Cuomo said he doesn’t know of any positives about hydraulic fracturing. Obviously he has not been listening to President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the EPA and the Governors of 34 states who know that hydraulic fracturing has reduced our dependency on foreign oil, increased our energy security, improved our economy, lowered gas prices and, most importantly, reduced our greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest levels since 1994. Where was Governor Cuomo when President Obama said natural gas is ‘the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change’?”
“The landowners deserve to know why our health department can’t form an opinion on the science of hydraulic fracturing when state health departments across the country have approved the process. Is our health department ignoring impacts of other energy options and suggesting that we continue with our reliance on coal and nuclear energy? Did our health department consider the health effects of poverty and unemployment?”
“It is a sad day for all New Yorkers but it’s what we have come to expect from our misguided Governor.”(4)
And representing industry, the New York State Petroleum Council:
API New York State Petroleum Council Executive Director Karen Moreau today said Governor Cuomo acted irresponsibly by issuing a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, putting the state’s economy on a reckless path and ignoring the needs of New York families, economic opportunity, job creation, revenue to the government, and America’s need for energy security.
“Today’s action by Governor Cuomo shows that New York families, teachers, roads and good-paying jobs have lost out to political gamesmanship. This is the wrong direction for New York.
“Robust regulations exist at the federal and state levels nationwide for natural gas development and environmental protection. A politically motivated and equally misinformed ban on a proven technology used for over 60 years – throughout the country to great success – is short-sighted and reckless, particularly when New York depends on safely produced natural gas just over the border in Pennsylvania.
“New York is sitting on a major opportunity to help fuel America’s future. Just next door in Pennsylvania, more than $630 million has been distributed to communities since 2012 – including more than $224 million in just 2014. These once economically challenged areas are now thriving. The commonwealth has also benefited from over $2.1 billion in state and local taxes generated by the shale energy industry. Revenue from natural gas production supports road and bridge improvements, water and sewer projects, local housing initiatives, environmental programs and rehabilitation of greenways. We are resolved to continue to fight for these benefits in New York.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the landowners and our labor allies, who are focused on creating jobs. This is a missed opportunity to share in the American energy renaissance, and for New York’s future prosperity.”(5)
MDN’s Closing Thoughts: Cuomo can kiss any presidential aspirations good bye. Does he honestly think he can run for president on a platform of “I stopped fracking in New York and I’ll do the same for the entire country”? He’s delusional if he thinks he has a prayer.
So where do we go from here? Cuomo’s decision (and make no mistake, it was HIS decision) is depressing. But we have a righteous and just cause. We have on the pro-drilling side of this debate have a secret weapon–the truth. We will only be beaten if we give up. I WILL NEVER GIVE UP! NEVER!! We’re six long years into what has become an epic battle. We likely have another four years (at least) to go–the next election. If we can manage to replace Cuomo with a Republican in favor of fracking, we stand a chance of opening up New York.
Apart from elections, it’s time to begin lawsuits for “takings.” Landowners have been illegally denied the use of their property by the state and not justly compensated for it. We need to make our anti-drilling neighbors pay us if they don’t want drilling in the state. Such a lawsuit has been explored but put on hold. Perhaps it’s time to rekindle those lawsuits and push forward with the threat of bankrupting the state for their illegal actions. Stay tuned on the litigation front.
Bottom line: The days are dark. This decision by Cuomo sucks. Sometimes life sucks–but we are optimists. We will never yield on this fight and therefore, we will never truly be beaten.
Here’s the cabinet meeting. Cuomo introduces the topic of fracking at 41 minutes 40 seconds (conveniently cued for you below):
(1) Albany (NY) Times Union (Dec 17, 2014) – Health Department review: No on fracking, though data lacking
(2) New York State Dept. of Health (Dec 17, 2014) – New York State Department of Health Completes Review of High-volume Hydraulic Fracturing
(3) U.S. Congressman Chris Collins (Dec 17, 2014) – Governor Cuomo’s Fracking Decision Eliminates Job Opportunities and Crushes Economic Growth
(4) Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (Dec 17, 2014) – Landowners Outraged Over Governor Cuomo’s Ban of Natural Gas Production (PDF)
(5) American Petroleum Institute (Dec 17, 2014) – Governor Cuomo snubs jobs for New York families and the benefits of energy security
- Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin (Dec 17, 2014) – Fracking rejected in New York
- Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard (Dec 17, 2014) – Fracking ban bad for Upstate New York economy, business and energy groups say
- AP/Fort Wayne (IN) Journal Gazette (Dec 17, 2014) – New York to ban fracking; environmentalists cheer
- Reuters/Green Bay (WI) WTAQ Radio (Dec 17, 2014) – NY unlikely to face lawsuits over fracking ban, experts say
- Albany (NY) Times Union (Dec 17, 2014) – DOH fracking review React-O-Mat [comments from various organizations and people]
The report issued by Howard Zucker and the NY DOH: