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As the shale gas and oil boom sweeps the nation, most states give into the frenzy and the fantasy of free benefits—and then leave communities bearing the tragic costs when health, air, and water problems inevitably occur. Today, it’s so very heartening to see New York look squarely at reality and make a different choice.

Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said that, “The time to ensure the impacts on public health are properly considered is before a state permits drilling.” This was in a letter to Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens, which made clear that DOH will need more time to finish its review of how DEC’s environmental impact statement addresses health impacts.

Martens followed with an equally welcome statement indicating that DEC won’t finalize its regulations governing high-volume fracking until the health review is complete. This effectively delays any decision on whether to allow fracking in New York.

While much remains unknown about what the health review actually involves, Commissioner Shah’s letter offered a glimpse into the answer, stating that DOH is looking at water, air, and community-related health impacts and considering both current studies and emerging information.

Depending on the health review’s eventual conclusions, DEC could have a golden opportunity to repair problems in the proposed regulations that can have a direct bearing on health, like setbacks, the use of toxic chemicals, emissions controls, and waste disposal—or to decide that high-volume fracking simply poses too many risks to public health and safety to pursue.

Over time, more and more New Yorkers have taken a strong stand against moving forward with irresponsible fracking. Today’s turn of events should make them feel very proud, and very fortunate.

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