New York’s decision on whether or not to allow hydrofracking may hinge on the results of a new health study by the Danville-based Geisinger Health System.
The Associated Press reports New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, put off making a decision last month, partly on the advice of his former brother-in-law and environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.:
Kennedy believes Cuomo held off in large part because of the prospect of a new $1 million study by the Geisinger Health System of Pennsylvania, billed by property owners seeking safe fracking and environmentalists as a “large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment” of drilling in Pennsylvania.
The study will look at detailed health histories of hundreds of thousands of patients who live near wells and other facilities that are producing natural gas from the same Marcellus Shale formation that New York would tap.
Unlike most studies funded by advocates or opponents of hydrofracking, this study would be funded by the Sunbury, Pa.-based Degenstein Foundation, which is not seen as having an ideological bent.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation faced an end-of-February deadline to finalize its fracking regulations, but that was stalled when the head of the state’s Department of Health said he needed more time to review potential health impacts.
The four-and-a-half year environmental review of fracking has upset some landowners and the gas industry. Last week, Gannett reported the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York plans to file a lawsuit against the state for delaying the decision.
The Geisinger study includes more than 40 researchers from 16 different organizations. Phase I of the study is expected to be completed over the next three to five years.