Key assemblymember on fracking panel calls for health study do-over

Oct 10, 2013

A Binghamton assemblywoman on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's hydrofracking advisory panel is asking for a do-over of an ongoing heath review, saying the secretive process has compromised public confidence.

Democrat Donna Lupardo has written a letter to Cuomo’s environmental commissioner, asking that a health review by the governor’s Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah, be put on hold. The year-long study has been conducted mostly in secret. In a letter posted on her Facebook page, Lupardo says in order for the public to have confidence in New York state’s health impact analysis of shale fracking, a comprehensive public health impact study should be undertaken openly and transparently to resolve all shale fracking concerns once and for all.

Walter Hang, with the anti-fracking group Toxics Targeting, says the letter is significant.

“When someone so low key and behind the scenes as Assemblywoman Lupardo takes such dramatic action, I really think that sends an unmistakable message to Gov. Cuomo,” Hang said. “This has gone past the point of no return.”

Lupardo is the Assembly’s representative on the Cuomo administration’s fracking advisory board. It has not met in more than a year and a half. The Assemblywoman, in her letter, mentions that she had asked back in February of this year that the advisory panel reconvene and be briefed on the ongoing health study, but her request was declined.

In September of 2012, Cuomo’s environmental commissioner announced that Dr. Shah would begin a health review, and that there would be no decision on going ahead with hydrofracking in the state until it was finished. Three outside experts were contracted to review health data that the environmental agency said it had on hand. The experts signed confidentiality clauses, and have never spoken publicly about their work. More recently, Dr. Shah has said he’s traveled to states that allow fracking, including Pennsylvania and Texas, and is looking at several ongoing studies, including one by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and one performed by a Pennsylvania health care company.

In a rare public comment last spring, Dr. Shah said he was continuing to work on the health review, and that there was no real timetable. At the time he made those comments, back in April, Dr. Shah said he expected to be done in a few weeks.

Cuomo has said for years now that when he does make the decision on whether or not to frack, it will be based on science and facts, not emotions.

The state has had a de facto moratorium on fracking for five years, and polls show the public is evenly divided on the issue.

The Department of Environmental Conservation declined to comment on Assemblywoman Lupardo’s letter.