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Fracking panel member wants NY health review put on hold


A Southern Tier assemblywoman is asking the state to put an immediate pause on the Health Department's review of hydraulic fracturing, instead calling for a more-comprehensive analysis that is "transparent and thorough."

In a letter Wednesday to state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, knocked the state's current review of fracking's health impacts.

The review, launched by Health Commissioner Nirav Shah a year ago, has been conducted with "no public notice, opportunity for public review or public hearing to listen to testimony from interested parties," Lupardo noted.

"In order for the public to have confidence in New York State's 'health impact analysis' of shale fracking, a comprehensive Public Health Impact Study should be undertaken openly and transparently to resolve all shale fracking concerns once and for all," Lupardo wrote. "As you know, the Assembly majority has been pushing this for a number of years."

Lupardo is a member of the state Department of Environmental Conservation's High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel, which was launched in July 2011 and tasked with coming up with an appropriate fee structure for gas drillers. But the panel, which includes a number of advocates on both sides of the issue, hasn't met since December 2011.

In her letter, Lupardo again asked Martens to re-convene the panel to assess the status of Shah's health review. Her previous request for a panel meeting was rebuffed by Martens in February, according to the letter.

"With so many questions lingering in the public's mind about health impacts related to (fracking), it makes sense to move ahead in a way that will provide meaningful answers," Lupardo wrote.

There's been no recent indication when Shah's review may be completed, which is one of the last remaining hurdles ahead of a decision on whether to open the Marcellus Shale to fracking. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was last asked about the issue in September, when he said there was "nothing new" to report.