January 03, 2013

Irresponsible Media Reports - Fracking is Safe?

Today at least 3 different online publications released an article with similar titles and content proclaiming that state guidelines suggest that fracking can be a safe operation.  Each article I read (The NY Times, Pressconnects.com and WNYC.org) all referred to the same DOH document which was published as an 8 page summary in February 2012.  It was not intended as a stand alone document.  Find all links and the full report text on Bill Houston's blog

What has happened with the reporting of this year old summary document is akin to a slight of hand trick.  Folks for drilling will say "see...they said it was ok" and folks who are still fighting to ban HVHF will continue to clear up misinformation.  Even DEC spokesperson Emily DeSantis said the document is not a health assessment, is nearly a year old, and does not reflect final DEC policy.

Throughout the document it repeatedly says, "With the proposed mitigation measures in place, human exposure levels to HVHF-related [contamination] would be reduced below established health-based standards or guidelines."  The key of this summary is based on the the proposed measures in the guidelines which are currently being debated and questioned through the DEC regulation guides of the original 1992 GEIS and SGEIS.  The topic of what is safe is being hotly contested.

Another fallacy of the so called health report is that chemical contamination and air pollution are cumulative - not a singular effect.  Will the impact of 1 well on a road be the same as 10 wells?  100 wells?  Can a region physically be safe when 1000 wells are in a close proximity in an area?  These kinds of questions will only be answered with current day analysis based on the operations in place now - not those in 1992.

On the very first page of the summary it states: [bold emphasis mine]
The 1992 GEIS considers potential direct and indirect impacts on human health from conventional gas development, including low-volume hydraulic fracturing of vertical wells.  This supplement extends that assessment to consider potential direct and indirect human health impacts from HVHF
I would strongly suggest that is not a logical extension of an assessment:  conventional drilling operations and high volume hydraulic facturing are not two peas in a pod.  The differences, costs, and risk factors are much different. 

As a citizen of NY who continually investigates the fracking issue, I am outraged at the news media for publishing this document summary with headlines and comments like it was the final DOH Health Impact Review we have been waiting for.  DEC regulations are in a state of flux with many questions being asked.  After Jan 11 when public review and comment period is closed we will see even more questions and valuable documentations.  So to suggest this health summary document somehow resolves the health topic is absurd and a lie to all citizens who live in regions of drilling interests.

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