New York: Health Impacts of Fracking

As part of a review on the natural gas drilling process, New York state officials are considering undertaking an investigation of the possible public health effects of hydraulic fracturing – fracking.  The process of fracking is the extraction of natural gas from shale rock layers from the ground.  It enables the production of natural gas extraction in shale plays.  Other technologies cannot do this.  However, New York has an anti-fracking movement which is fighting against this, for the health and safety of its residents.

In an attempt to battle this issue, various social environmental groups recently met up with top New York State Department of Health officials and the Department of Environmental Conservation to discuss its potentially negative health impacts.  These include: water contamination from spills; air pollution and possible accidents resulting from increased truck traffic.  The environmentalists are pushing for an independent health assessment from medical experts before regulations are finalized and the go-ahead is given to start drilling.

State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has encountered a tremendous amount of pressure on banning fracking altogether, or at least until adequate research is done. The problem is, those who are in favor of it argue that it makes mining for natural gas in dense shale more economically viable.  Indeed, hydrofracking uses much more water than conventional drilling; utilizes a “slick water” mixture pumped into the shale to fracture the rock and release the gas.  But the bad news is that there can be severe negative impacts on the environment from the drilling: long-term toxicity; forestland loss; and more.  To counter this, the only plan the state of New York has is to put up a surveillance system monitoring health impacts when fracking takes place. This could be due to the fact that various federal and state officials in the region insist the practice is safe when undertaken in the correct way.  It is only when there are faulty wells that pollution results.  Indeed, as the city’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out, natural gas is better, at least, environmentally speaking.

But the whole fracking issue spills over into a variety of other areas.  That is where the Sewage Pollution  Right to Know Act comes in. Environmentalists support this since it seeks more disclosure on sewage levels flowing into the state’s waterways.  The data provided from this can be used for swimming, boating and other public recreational activities, which again is crucial to the health of New Yorkers and those visiting the state.