You are here

Letter to Governor Cuomo Re: a Proposed HV HF Health Impact Study

March 27, 2013

Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York
The State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

We, the undersigned, write to request that you put on-hold completion of your Department of Health’s (DOH) fatally flawed Review of High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) until it fulfills the goals stated by Environmental Conservation Commissioner Martens on 9/20/12.

At that time, he announced: “I have recently met with several of the groups who have raised public health concerns and it is clear they are not satisfied with the Department's effort to address potential public health impacts (emphasis added).” In order to resolve those concerns, Commissioner Martens declared that a DOH Review would be undertaken to:

a) address “any legitimate request for additional due diligence and study… (emphasis added);”
b) ensure that “DEC's ultimate decision on hydraulic fracturing is beyond reproach either as a matter of law or as policy (emphasis added);”

c) allow DEC to avail “ourselves of the best possible advice from the private and academic sectors (emphasis added);” and

d) “… result in the most thorough review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the nation…(emphasis added).”


Commissioner Martens added: “Fundamentally, I want to make sure that we have done the most thorough review possible, especially when it comes to public health concerns (emphasis added).”

In short, your administration is requiring the Public Health Impact Review to fulfill extremely exigent mandates and to be comprehensive in scope. Until that is accomplished, your administration has declared that no Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) will be adopted.

DOH Review is an Exercise in Futility That Cannot Meet its Mandated Goals

In reality, the DOH Review has not achieved its goals and is an exercise in futility. Commissioner Shah recently testified for the first time that he and three outside experts who were contracted for 25 hours of work merely reviewed the existing Draft SGEIS. That effort is pointless.

Scientists, physicians, elected officials and concerned citizens specifically requested that a new comprehensive Health Impact Study be undertaken because the Revised Draft SGEIS was deemed totally inadequate to safeguard public health.

A coalition letter with more than 22,000 signatories requests that the Revised Draft SGEIS be withdrawn due to 17 critical concerns that threaten public health.


In short, your DOH Review cannot possibly support a decision whether to permit shale gas fracturing in New York. Its fatal flaws also cannot be eliminated even if Dr. Shah confers with investigators undertaking three shale gas studies that are years away from completion. The DOH Review simply must be scrapped.

Request That DOH Conduct a Formal Public Health Impact Study of HVHF

Given those fundamental inadequacies, we request that you now require Health Commissioner Shah to undertake a comprehensive Public Health Impact Study of HVHF in order to resolve the shortcomings of the Revised Draft SGEIS.

This is clearly what the public believed Dr. Shah would be undertaking based on Commissioner Martens’ four stated goals. It also would implement the key policy he voiced to rationalize undertaking the DOH Review:

“While the review will be informed by outside perspectives on the science of hydrofracking, the decision-making will remain a governmental responsibility.”

Public Participation Imperative for Proposed Public Health Impact Study

In order to make sure that the proposed DOH Study can fulfill its mandates, we request that you require: 1) written public notice of the intent/scope of the Study; 2) at least a 30-day public comment period to afford ample opportunity for review and comment and 3) at least one public hearing to allow interested parties to testify about how the Public Health Impact Study should be conducted.

Those requests are consistent with the requests presented in four coalition letters with more than 5,000 signatories:


Proposed Scope of DOH Public Health Impact Study of HVHF

At a minimum, the DOH Public Health Impact Study of HVHF must resolve all of the fundamental shortcomings of the Revised Draft SGEIS by documenting:

A: The broad spectrum of toxic and persistent pollutants generated by HVHF activities;

B: The environmental fate and transport mechanisms associated with the toxic and persistent pollutants generated by HVHF activities;

C: Known and potential public exposures to toxic and persistent HVHF pollutants, including: contaminant concentrations; exposure duration; an assessment of all potential public health consequences; and

D: Whether the Draft SGEIS adequately safeguards public health from HVHF toxic pollution threats.


Your existing DOH Review of HVHF has been conducted in secret without any public input. It cannot achieve its goals and must be scrapped.

In order to fulfill your administration’s mandates for that proceeding, we request that you require your DOH to undertake the comprehensive Public Health Impact Study outlined herein. Until that Study is completed, we request that you withhold adoption of a Final SGEIS.

We trust that you will find our request self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions that we might be able to answer.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,