NY Health Commissioner adds delay to fracking review

News and analysis by Dan Telvock, Investigative Post's environmental reporter

The New York State hydrofracking regulations review and environmental impact study that the Department of Environmental Conservation started in 2008 has once again hit a bump.

Health Commissioner Nirav Shah wants more investigation added to the review, specifically a health impact analysis. But he refuses to take the suggestion from environmentalists to have independent university experts conduct the work. Shah said it is the government’s job to decide if the state’s moratorium should be lifted and if natural gas drilling is safe for the environment.

Gov. Cuomo has been holding back on his decision until the DEC completes its review.

On Monday, a NY district judge dismissed a lawsuit against the EPA and Delaware River Basin Commission. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who filed the lawsuit, was seeking a federal environmental review on hydrofracking.

Maya van Rossum, of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, told Investigative Post today that she doesn’t think the judge’s decision changes the course in New York. She said Shah’s support for a health impact analysis means drilling is still on hold in New York.

“I don’t think it brings us any closer to drilling at all,” she said. “If anything, it just solidifies that we are in this holding pattern.”

The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York President Dan Fitzsimmons issued this statement about the court’s decision: “We are pleased the court dismissed this lawsuit brought by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. This brings our landowners in the Delaware River Basin one step closer to moving forward with natural gas development. We encourage the DRBC to complete its regulations promptly, and for NY to move onto the important business of developing our state’s energy so that we may accomplish twin goals of improving our environment and boosting our economy.”