Details of a pending evaluation by health experts to gauge the soundness of New York’s state policy on fracking will be delayed as officials deal with a health crisis in the wake of tropical storm Sandy.
Bill Schwarz, director of Public Affairs for the state Health Department, gave me a brief status report today from the New York City metropolitan area, where local, state, and national government agencies continued storm relief efforts. Officials from the state Department of Health were overseeing the evacuation of several nursing homes and other health facilities without power in anticipation of more bad weather and cold temperatures this week.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Schwarz said. He added that administrators are still working to finalize contracts with independent consultants to evaluate whether the state DEC’s pending shale gas policy is sufficient to evaluate and mitigate associated health risks. As reported in a previous post, the contracts were originally expected to be completed by today.
DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens announced the plan for additional review two months ago with mounting pressure from environmental groups pushing for a more complete record of how fracking might affect public health. Activists from both grass roots and mainstream environmental organizations are urging the state to quantify a range of risks such as chemical exposure from air and water emissions, industrial accidents, community stresses related to noise, traffic, housing, and demographic changes, as well as considering resources necessary to manage them.
The state faces a Nov. 29th – -- a year after the last public hearing -- to finalize regulations for the industry, or restart the process. The rulemaking process is being conducted simultaneously with an environmental review, called the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. Martens has not said whether the state expects to meet the Nov. 29th deadline.