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Fracking opponents ask Cuomo for clarifications


Walter Hang of the Ithaca-based environmental research firm Toxics Targeting discusses a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed by more than 600 people asking for clarification about the state’s rules regarding high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

Opponents of large-scale hydraulic fracturing are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration to clarify the status of the drilling technique in New York state.

Walter Hang, of the Ithaca-based environmental research firm Toxics Targeting, has delivered a letter to the governor that is signed, he said, by more than 700 people, requesting that details be released in advance of a final environmental impact statement to be published by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

"We're simply asking the governor to publicly clarify how the findings and recommendations are going to be translated into public policy," Hang said during a news conference Monday outside the State Office Building in downtown Binghamton.

In December, state Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announced the results of a review of the potential health impacts of large-scale fracking, concluding that there are too many areas where the science on the technique is inconclusive and urging the state to prevent it from moving forward.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in December that and will include an outright ban.

DEC spokesman Tom Mailey said the department is working to complete the final environmental impact statement. State law does not require that it be opened to public comment.

"No sooner than 10 days after publication ... DEC Commissioner Joe Martens will issue a Findings Statement," Mailey said. "Until the Findings Statement is issued, the moratorium (on hydraulic fracturing) remains in effect."

Hang, speaking on behalf of a loose coalition of fracking opponents, said the concern is that despite the announcement of a fracking ban, the public health review report made no mention of banning fracking or enacting any kind of permanent, legally binding prohibition on shale fracking.

Hang's letter calls on Cuomo and the DEC to make public the contents of the final environmental report before it is published, to open it to public comment, and to include those comments when a final decision on a legally binding ban is made.

"This is a hugely important environmental and public health decision for New Yorkers, and it ought to be made openly and honestly," he said.