May 31, 2012
Group wants fracking study
CORTLANDVILLE — About 30 protesters gathered at noon Wednesday outside state Sen. Jim Seward’s office on Route 281, part of a larger statewide effort opposing hydraulic fracturing.
The group was pushing for Seward (R-Milford) to allocate state funding for a health impact study of hydrofracking, which injects chemically treated water into underground shale to fracture it so natural gas can be extracted.
Critics contend fracking has polluted air and water in some areas.
Approximately $100,000 that Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) had called to be set aside in the 2012-13 state budget for a comprehensive health study of hydrofracking was eliminated from the Senate and governor’s versions of the budget in March.
Some protesters Wednesday carried signs and wore costumes.
Freetown resident Jim Weiss dressed like a doctor with a gag over his mouth, carrying a sign that read : “Pa. Doctors gagged about fracking. Why?”
Weiss, an outspoken critic of hydrofracking, said the sign represented the doctors in Pennsylvania and now Ohio, who are banned by law from speaking about cases of patients who might have been harmed by nearby gas drilling.
“What’s the industry afraid of?” Weiss said. “The Pennsylvania government is heavily dominated by the industry, and which way the New York government will go is a toss up.”
Weiss and other protesters wanted their presence outside Seward’s office Wednesday to draw public attention to the need for a health study. Similar rallies occurred in at least four other parts of the state as part of a “Day of Action” calling on state leaders to protect the public from fracking.
Truxton resident Joe Pullman was holding a sign with McLean resident Frank Ray that read, “Doctor’s orders: No fracking.”
“I want to see a thorough investigation into the health effects of fracking,” Pullman said.
Pullman visited Dimock, Pa., with his daughter and met many residents who were adversely impacted by gas drilling.
Ray, a member of anti-fracking groups like MoveOn and Citizens United for Action, said he was hopeful Seward could be swayed to push for funding of a health study.
Ray said he thinks a health impact study is inevitable.
“There will be such an assessment either done now when it could do some good and strengthen Seward’s reputation ... or after hydrofracking is in action and a bunch of people get very sick,” Ray said.
He said if Seward pushes for a study to be done sooner rather than later, it would make him a “hero.”
Caroline resident Ellen Harrison carried a sign that read, “Drill a well, give a kid cancer.”
Harrison, a retired environmental scientist, said she used to study water pollution issues in Connecticut.
“Health assessments are not easy to do ... but they’re essential,” Harrison said.
Potential exposure to toxic chemicals near drilling sites can come from water pollution and air pollution from evaporation, spills and compressor stations, she said.
Harrison wants a holistic and comprehensive study to assess all the health impacts of exposure to chemicals associated with hydrofracking.
Maryfaith Miller, a dairy farmer from Summerhill, stood waving a sign calling for Seward to protect his constituents and support the bill that would fund a health study.
“I’m concerned Senator Seward’s interests are in protecting the industry, not us,” Miller said.
She said a health impact study is essential, adding she won’t let her child be the “canary in the coal mine” for the industry.
Seward was in session in Albany at the time of the rally.
He said this morning the state Department of Health is reviewing all the comments on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, a document outlining all potential concerns of hydraulic fracturing.
Seward said since the Health Department is going to respond to all the health concerns that have been raised in the document, it would be “redundant” to set aside state funding for a health impact study.
“Whether it’s public health or any aspect of gas drilling, I think it’s important we allow the process to proceed and ultimately have judgements made based on facts and science of all aspects of the issue. And I believe public health issues are important and in my view the Health Department is well equipped to deal with the health aspects,” Seward said.
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