For Immediate Release
July 10, 2012
Organizations call for independent review of fracking untainted by industry influence and highlight importance of Senate forum in New York City next week
New York, NY – On Tuesday at City Hall, a coalition of elected officials, good government, environmental and consumer advocates, and residents of New York came together to denounce the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC’s) exclusive communications with gas and oil companies regarding fracking regulations and to call for a new, independent review.
The communications between DEC and the gas and oil industry were only revealed after the Environmental Working Group (EWG) filed a Freedom of Information Act Request aimed at communications between the two sides. The communications offered industry lobbyists preferential access to the draft regulations, allowing them to lobby for changes before the regulations were released to the public and raising ethical questions about a state agency providing such one-sided advanced access.
The coalition called on Governor Cuomo and DEC to withdraw their draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) and for the initiation of an independent environmental, public health and economic review of fracking that is based on science and untainted by undue industry influence.
The coalition also pointed to a forum that the New York State Senate Democratic Conference is hosting in New York City next Wednesday with experts and land owners as a contrast to the industry-dominated actions of the DEC.
The uncovering of this communication comes just weeks after over 100 organizations – many with different opinions on how New York should deal with fracking – signed onto a statement calling for the state to refrain from a decision on fracking “until a complete and independent study of the impacts to public health, the environment and [the economy].” The statement was issued shortly after a New York Times report indicated that the Cuomo administration was considering allowing “limited” fracking in impoverished Southern Tier counties. It was signed by such organizations as the Natural Resources Defense Council, NYPIRG, the Sierra Club, and the Working Families Party, as well as prominent New Yorkers including Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlet Johansson, Alec Baldwin, Debra Winger, Gloria Steinem, Yoko Ono and others.
These exclusive communications between DEC and industry lobbyists have precluded the DEC from completing an independent study.
“Since the DEC began its review of fracking, state residents have rightly expected that the process would be unbiased and untainted by those who stand to profit from the risky drilling method. We now know our expectations were betrayed. It’s time for the Cuomo Administration to do the right thing for all New Yorkers and start from square one with an independent review of fracking based on science, not industry influence.” – Alex Beauchamp, State Director of Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy organization.
“While New Yorkers have struggled for years to get our voices heard at the DEC, Albany has been doing business-as-usual: closed doors to the taxpaying public, but open arms for industry lobbyists. NYPIRG urges Governor Cuomo to live up to his promise of open and transparent government. Considering the potential for devastating pollution of our water, destruction of farmland, and negative impacts on public health, it is critical that there be an independent environmental, health, and economics study to restore the public’s faith.” – Rebecca J. Weber, Executive Director of NYPIRG
“Our report raises serious questions about the integrity of New York’s review of whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Empire State. Gov. Cuomo said that this process would be fair, transparent, and science-based, yet communications between his experts and the drilling industry fail to live up to that standard. New Yorkers deserve to know the extent to which oil and gas companies have shaped the state’s draft drilling plan. Any decision made by the governor must reflect best science, not political science.” – Thomas Cluderay, EWG assistant general counsel.
“The oil & gas industry’s improper influence over the Cuomo administration’s draft fracking regulations raises disturbing questions about the entire process.” – Joan Mandle, Executive Director of Democracy Matters, a good government organization that works to get big private money out of politics.
“When two sides don’t agree, the referee needs to listen to both. The DEC has forfeited its claim to impartiality by sharing drafts with only one side.” – Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the Working Families Party
“The fact that Bradley J. Field, the DEC official who oversaw the writing of the draft SGEIS, denies basic climate science is a prime example of how this process has gone off the rails. It’s like a cartographer who believes the world is flat being charged with making navigational maps–they would be inaccurate and extremely dangerous.” – Phil Aroneanu, US Campaigns Director, 350.org