THE NEGATIVE HEALTH IMPACTS OF INCREASED RELIANCE ON NATURAL GAS AS AN ENERGY SOURCE ARE LARGELY IGNORED
The Energy Plan puts New York on a path to increased reliance on natural gas extracted through unconventional drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The Energy Plan concedes that gas development will occur in New York: “The natural gas model reflects a conservative Marcellus Shale natural gas production level to account for potential permitting and production difficulties related to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. If these difficulties are minimized, Marcellus production levels could potentially be higher.”
However, even if unconventional gas development with hydraulic fracturing is never permitted in New York, the consequence of using more shale gas extracted through fracking will mean greater exposure of people—both in New York and elsewhere—to polluted air and water, gas drilling waste on roads and in landfills, exposure to radionuclides, and the industrialization of rural areas. The plan fails to comprehensively address the many issues relating to emissions, water contamination, safety, and environmental degradation from increased reliance on natural gas including extraction and related infrastructure, such as industrial plants to process, store, and distribute liquefied natural gas and petroleum gas (LNG and LPG), fueling stations, compressor stations, and pipelines. The Plan also fails to address the health impacts on vulnerable populations, especially children.
Gas development is already taking place in our neighboring as well as more distant western states. This is occurring without attention to the large-scale health problems emerging as a result of gas development in those states. New York State must carefully assess the potential health impacts of natural gas extraction, processing and delivery on New Yorkers, directly and as a result of such activities outside our borders, prior to taking a decision to rely on such gas for the future of New York’s energy needs. The emerging literature indicates that the risks outweigh any benefits.
The medical community in NY State has been researching the issue of health impacts of fossil fuels, and shale gas in particular, for the past three years. We have requested that New York perform a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment that would include all the risks, including the costs of lives shortened or otherwise impacted by gas development activities. Until such an assessment is completed we think it is improper to commit New York to increased reliance on natural gas.