The idea that risk is lower when fewer people are exposed to harm may hold true in statistical analysis—but is little comfort to those who actually suffer the consequences. Which is precisely why New York Governor Cuomo’s proposal to allow high-volume gas development in certain locations is a bad idea.
As Earthworks and partners in the New York Water Rangers coalition stated today, simply limiting the geographic and geological scope of gas development and fracking doesn’t make it safe. The plan, reported in the New York Times, leaves a critical question unanswered: whether communities, health, and air and water quality will be fully protected from harm.
Governor Cuomo would apparently like to give the green light to drilling in several counties in the south-central part of the State, areas that are both economically depressed and where the Marcellus Shale would presumably yield the most gas. It’s claimed that enough communities in the region favor drilling to make it acceptable, and those that don’t could still say no.
But here’s the problem. As it currently stands, New York won’t be able to prevent health and environmental damage from occurring in these “selected” communities—as well as anywhere downstream, downwind, or near new roads, pipelines, and other gas facilities.
In the absence of a health impacts assessment, analysis of cumulative environmental impacts, a plan to safely deal with large volumes of hazardous waste, prohibition of the use of toxic chemicals, and reliable science, New York simply isn’t ready for industrial shale gas development. And as experience in other states shows, regulations alone are not enough to keep us safe—especially in the face of practices that have yet to be fully understood and proven safe, and that have already harmed many people in many places.
In the rush to drill for ever-more fossil fuels and our collective consumption of dirty energy, we’re creating countless “sacrifice zones” both across the nation and the world. Governor Cuomo shouldn’t be proposing a replication of this unjust and tragic pattern in New York—but instead doing what it takes to protect everyone equally and achieve a clean energy future for all.