What many of us have been hoping would happen, happened today. Activists, communities and water aficionados across the state are breathing a collective sigh of relief as they hear the news that the State Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav R. Shah, sent a letter to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens this afternoon stating, in part:
“As we have been reviewing the scope of these studies, I have determined — and prudence dictates — that the DOH Public Health Review will require additional time to complete based on the complexity of the issues. My team and I will be in Pennsylvania and Washington in the coming days for first-hand briefings on these studies and their progress, which will assist in informing the New York review. I have also extended the term of the DOH outside expert researchers to continue to assist my review. I anticipate delivering the completed Public Health Review to you within a few weeks, along with my recommendations.”
In other words, the review probably won’t be completed this month. This is great news, because without the DOH’s review the SGEIS can’t go forward, and if the SGEIS can’t go forward, the whole process resets and opens up for another public comment period. Long story short? This buys us a whole bunch of time. Martens takes pains to mention that the permits can still go forward ten days after the review is complete, assuming the review affirms the SGEIS’ position. One could almost hear Martens’ frustration in his press release, which he ended with the line: “In either event, the science, not emotion, will determine the outcome.”
(If only it were that simple - Martens himself probably has some significant emotions about this issue, as he is not only the Commissioner of the DEC but also sits on the board of the Hudson River Park Trust. Yes, that Hudson River Park Trust: http://www.thevillager.com/?p=9344)
So yes, let’s celebrate. But let’s not be foolhardy. This is a delay, which is worlds away from a ban. We at Occupy the Pipeline are of the mind that this delay affords us more time to do the work needed to spread public awareness that there is no safe Fracking. We will not be satisfied until there is a complete Ban on Fracking in New York State.
We vehemently disagree with the position that prominent Environmental Orgs such as Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) have taken: “NRDC supports establishing a fully effective system of safeguards for hydraulic fracturing to protect our health and land and is committed to working with the federal government, states, communities and industry to put these safeguards into place right away.”
When the lawmakers themselves have a direct financial stake in the profits of industry, there can be no “effective system of safeguards” On Monday, seven environmental groups held a press conference in Albany calling for the Albany County District Attorney to conduct a General investigation of the Cuomo Administration. This was prompted by an independant investigation which revealed that Andrew Cuomo’s chief of staff, Lawrence Schwartz has extensive stock holdings in major Gas & Oil industry giants such as Occidental Petroleum and Exxon Mobile. This reeks of insider trading and is definitely a major conflict of interest.
WE ARE the system of safeguards, the people, the only safeguard that has ever been effective or ever will be.There is no compromise when the health and safety of our watersheds, communities and farms are concerned. Today’s news affirmed what we can accomplish when we work together. We hope you’ll join us in this work!
written by: Lopi LaRoe & Patrick Robbins