New York Doctors, Environmentalists Seek Fracking Health Study

More than 250 doctors, nurses and environmental groups are calling for New York State officials to study the public health consequences of drilling for natural gas using the controversial technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

As ProPublica reports, the health and environnmental advocates want the state to identify the hazards and propose steps to combat the risks in potential drilling areas. In a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, they contend that the state has ignored evidence of the harm gas drilling causes to public health in its plan for regulating fracking.

New York put the brakes on fracking three years ago, providing time to develop its regulatory plan, while drilling in neighboring Pennsylvania was booming. Earlier this week, as The Associated Press reported, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett proposed the state’s first fee on drilling to provide revenues beginning at $120 million a year to regulate the industry, fix the environmental damage it causes and look into related health complaints.

Fracking — a technique of injecting water, sand and toxic chemicals into underground rock to release natural gas — has fostered a drilling boom in recent years across much of the country. But it also is blamed for air, water and soil contamination — which, as the letter to Cuomo stated, “are clearly established pathways for health impacts.”

Overseas, too, fracking is controversial. In June, lawmakers in France voted to make the practice illegal, the first nation to take such an action. Bloomberg reported that President Nicolas Sarkozy said the ban will remain in place until there is proof that shale gas exploration won’t harm the environment or “massacre” the landscape.

STUART SILVERSTEIN

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