April 9, 2013
Honorable Andrew Cuomo
Governor New York State
New York State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
I’m writing to express my support for your science-driven approach to the State’s decision about high-volume hydraulic fracturing, and I urge you to wait for critical data from EPA’s ongoing analysis, the “Study of Hydraulic Fracturing and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources.” As the Congressman who authored the language directing the EPA to undertake this study – the first-ever comprehensive study of hydraulic fracturing’s impacts – I know how important it is that New York State lets the science be completed before making a decision that could impact New Yorkers for many generations.
During my tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives the Bush-Cheney Administration pushed through the Energy Policy Act in 2005, which I opposed and voted against. This act, premised on a faulty study and false industry promises, exempted the oil and gas industry from some of the nation’s most essential environmental and public health laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and parts of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
After hearing a myriad of accounts of contaminated groundwater and reported sickness from residents in areas across the country where hydraulic fracturing was taking place, I knew steps had to be taken to investigate what was happening in these places. In an effort to protect my constituents and people across the nation, I took action by securing the provision in the 2010 Interior and Environment appropriations bill report to direct EPA to conduct a study on hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on drinking water supplies.
Part of my intention in advancing this measure was to undertake and complete the EPA study prior to any decision on whether or not to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York. That is why I put forth the directive for the study and successfully fought attempts by the gas industry to cut the study’s budget and limit the study’s scope. After the provision passed Congress, President Obama included funding for the study in each of his next three budgets.
EPA’s ongoing study is the first independent, comprehensive scientific review of fracking to date. The scope of the EPA study includes analysis and consideration of the full life-cycle of water in the fracking process. This includes acquisition of fracking water, mixing with chemicals, well injection, flowback, transportation to treatment and final disposal. With a rigorous, independent peer reviewed process, this national study will comprehensively examine and detail risks for water contamination and impacts from fracking. In doing so, it will determine pathways of exposure for chemicals used in the fracking process that might contaminate drinking supplies and therefore directly impact public health.
In his letter on February 12, New York State Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah was correct to note the importance of the EPA study, among other comprehensive health studies that are now beginning. As Commissioner Shah has wisely noted, your decision about fracking is “too important to make a mistake.” I fully agree with your prior statement that New Yorkers deserve nothing less than the “most comprehensive review” ever undertaken. The results of the EPA study need to be part of that review, in addition to careful analysis of other emerging data and studies based on impacts felt in Pennsylvania and other states where fracking is already taking place. Additionally, transparency and inclusion of the public and independent experts should be brought to New York’s health review process in order to ensure the highest quality science is performed and that public trust is maintained.
As you know, protecting people’s health and well-being is our most important role as elected leaders. The EPA study that I initiated and fought for will help policy makers uphold that public trust, which is why it is vital for New York to wait for the results prior to determining policy on this controversial technology. After serving as an elected official for nearly four decades, I understand how important it is not to rush decisions like this and make certain we have all the data, facts and best information to make the right decision. I’m confident that New Yorkers will agree with and support you in standing up for their health and well-being by allowing the scientific studies to be completed prior to the State’s decision about fracking. I would certainly join them in applauding your courageous leadership on this issue in doing so and I thank you for considering these comments.
The Honorable Maurice D. Hinchey
Former Member of Congress
Saugerties, New York