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End secrecy Make fracking studies public

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The disclosure of a Health Department analysis on the risks of hydraulic fracturing raises more questions about the state’s delay in making a decision on whether to allow the controversial drilling method.

First reported by the New York Times, the eight-page document concluded after reviewing prior research that “significant adverse impacts on human health are not expected from routine (fracking) operations.” It went on to say that the Department of Environmental Conservation has “identified numerous additional mitigation measures” in the event of spills or other accidents.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had been expected to decide last year whether to lift a four-year ban put in place to allow for an environmental impact study. The DEC had been set to issue regulations but missed a November deadline to allow more time for the state Health commissioner and three outside experts to complete a review of data on the risks to public health.

The governor is said to favor limited drilling in the Southern Tier, where last November’s elections saw victories for candidates who support fracking to tap natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. Supporters say the region and state is losing out on the economic benefits. A separate New York Times article cites studies that the drilling process could create 17,600 construction jobs and more than 29,000 indirect jobs in the state.

A DEC spokeswoman dismissed the significance of the secret health analysis as out of date.

Environmental groups have also taken issue with the inaccessibility to health-related documents. Environmental Advocates of New York has unsuccessfully sought the documents under a Freedom of Information Law request to assess Health Department studies.

The process calls for much greater transparency on the part of the Cuomo administration. Releasing the studies will allow the public to assess their merits and allow New Yorkers to draw their own conclusions.

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