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Cuomo’s fracking health concern; Compulsory integration may be challenged

By Fritz Mayer
March 6, 2013

ALBANY, NY — According to a report from the Associated Press, Governor Andrew Cuomo came close to approving up to 40 gas wells targeting the Marcellus Shale recently, but changed direction after talking to environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cuomo’s former brother-in-law.

The issue holding up a decision on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is whether or not it has negative health implications. The March 1 article said Kennedy proposed that Cuomo delay a decision until the results of an ongoing health study on fracking, being performed by the Geisinger Center for Health in Pennsylvania, is complete.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, meanwhile, is awaiting the implementation of the state’s new rules on fracking until the completion of a separate health study being overseen by NY Health Commissioner Nirav Shah.

The $1 million Geisinger study is being funded by the Degenstein Foundation, which is seen by many involved in the fracking debate as not having a predetermined view of the matter.

The Geisinger website says: “A major aim of this project is to create a cross-disciplinary, integrated, and sharable repository of environmental, health and community data that will drive scientifically rigorous, hypothesis-driven investigations. A unique aspect of [this initiative] is to utilize health data obtained through the electronic health records of regional healthcare systems, augmented by direct data collection and the collection of samples for genomic analysis.”

But phase one of the Geisinger study may not be finished for three years or more, and with a review of fracking now in its fifth year, some in New York have begun to take steps to bring a lawsuit against the Cuomo Administration.

The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York sent a letter to members last week seeking people to sign on to a lawsuit that will argue that the failure to move ahead with drilling in the state is an illegal “taking” of property rights.

On the other side of the issue, a court challenge to the New York practice of compulsory integration may be in the works. In New York State, if the owners of 60% of land in a given drilling unit are in favor of drilling, the owners of the other 40% have no choice but to allow drilling beneath their property.