(Albany, New York), April 27, 2015 Health professionals, impacted residents, elected officials and advocates from across the state came to Albany today to urge Governor Cuomo, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Martens and Department of Health Commissioner Zucker to employ a consistent policy of evaluating the health impacts of the full lifecycle process of shale gas development amidst growing scientific evidence of potential risks. They request that the Governor and state agencies conduct an independent, transparent, cumulative Health Impact Assessment (HIA) with public participation, to fully evaluate and address the impacts of the build-out of extensive gas infrastructure in New York State. The infrastructure includes, but is not limited to, pipelines, compressor stations, gas-fired power plants, metering and regulating stations, pigging stations and gas processing and storage facilities. The NYSDEC must withhold permit decisions until the HIA is completed and fully considered.
In December 2014, Governor Cuomo made the decision not to permit High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the state. This decision placed particular emphasis on the right and responsibility of the Executive, along with state agencies, to first and foremost safeguard public health and safety. Mounting evidence from a growing number of peer-reviewed scientific studies links gas infrastructure to significant adverse health impacts. These same studies formed, in part, the basis for the conclusion to prohibit High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) in New York State by Commissioner Zucker and Martens. As Commissioner Zucker stated, “The public health impacts from HVHF activities could be significantly broader than just those geographic locations where the activity actually occurs, thus expanding the potential risk to a large population of New Yorkers.”
Evaluation of the direct impacts on local residents and downwind communities, as well as cumulative impacts on our regional air quality must be considered. Dr. David Carpenter, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York-Albany said, “The most urgent problem in New York right now is the expansion of pipelines bringing Pennsylvania natural gas across New York to New England. This involves placing a compressor station about every 50 miles, and studies show that the greatest releases of toxic gases come from compressor stations, even more than the fracking wells.”
New Yorkers in impacted areas are already exhibiting symptoms that occur from exposure to toxic air emissions from compressor stations and other pipeline infrastructure. Implementation of baseline and continuous monitoring protocols and health studies must be implemented for existing infrastructure operations. “Compressor stations emit massive quantities of criteria pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to cardiovascular and lung disease, cancer and other significant health impacts,” said Dr. Sheila Bushkin-Bedient.
Commissioner Zucker also described uncertainties due to new issues such as high levels of radioactivity in Marcellus Shale formations and cited several studies recommending that the state should exercise the precautionary principle pending the results of such important studies. “Radioactive contaminants are prevalent throughout the entire lifecycle of shale gas development, production and distribution including drilling, waste management, pipelines, compressor stations, metering and regulating stations and pigging stations that provide multiple pathways of exposure to workers and residents across the state,” said Ellen Weininger, Director of Educational Outreach at Grassroots Environmental Education and a Co-Founder of SAPE.
New York State must raise the bar by instituting a State Implementation Plan (SIP) that is more rigorous than the EPA’s federal requirements, which often fail to fully safeguard public health. For example, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards offer inadequate public health protections. Yearly averages fail to account for exposure to significant spikes in concentration of air pollutants during accidental or planned blowdown events and other routine operations. Pramilla Malick of Minisink said, “The EPA only provides a minimum standard in the Clean Air Act which does not restrict the state's authority to develop stronger air quality regulations. If New York State recognizes that shale gas development is hazardous to our health, then the DEC has the moral and legal obligation to adopt standards and requirements that are more stringent, such as 24 hour air monitoring, a more comprehensive definition of cumulative analysis, and greater compliance protocols.”
New Yorkers from across the state, including representatives from Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, Community Watersheds Clean Water Coalition, Concerned Health Professionals of New York, Concerned Residents of Carmel & Mahopac, Concerned Residents of Windsor, Earthworks, Grassroots Environmental Education, League of Women Voters of New York State, Madison County Neighbors for Environmental Preservation, Mohawk Valley Keeper, Physicians for Social Responsibility—New York, Occupy the Pipeline, Protect Orange County, Reynolds Hills, Inc., Otsego 2000, PAUSE, Sane Energy Project, SEnRG, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE), Stop the Minisink Compressor Station, Stop the Pipeline (Constitution), We Are Seneca Lake, Keep Yorktown Safe, and others, believe that the cumulative and synergistic impacts of all of these projects on our shared resources—our air, our water, our soil and our food—must be fully evaluated.