While deciding whether or not to approve fracking in New York, a key study was “edited and delayed by state officials before it was published,” a review by Capital discovered.
Through a Freedom of Information Act Request, Capital was able to obtain an early draft of a 2011 study on fracking, along with emails between Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and federal researchers. They found that “some of the authors’ original descriptions of environmental and health risks associated with fracking” were downplayed or outright removed from the final version.
The final version was also missing a reference to “risks associated with gas pipelines and underground storage,” and emails showed the governor’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) played an “active role” in shaping the final draft and in the decision of the timing of the study’s release. The DEC also tracked who read the study online and grouped them by their affiliation with specific institutions.
In an early draft of the report, one of the authors, Paul Heisig, noted that gas “drilling, extraction, transport via pipelines, and underground storage” could result in methane in drinking water. The version published after reviews and edits by the DEC and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERD) was missing this part, Capital reported.
The final version also says that the risk of methane pollution associated with fracking “can be reduced if the casing and cementing of [gas] wells is properly designed and constructed.”
Fracking is a political headache for the Cuomo administration: those on the left have heavily criticized him for not banning the dangerous practice outright, and his GOP opponents have criticized him for not lifting the state’s moratorium and allowing fracking outright.
The Cuomo administration, of course, “maintains that its interactions with the federal entities that conducted that original methane study were standard, and in the interests of science,” said Capital.
The changing of the report’s language and removal of passages that accurately depict the risks associated with fracking shows that his administration is clearly leaning towards allowing the practice. Changing the report to downplay the risks is just an unethical attempt to appease those on the left who are justifiably opposed to fracking. The Cuomo administration is obviously more concerned with the governor’s political standing than with the safety and well-being of New York’s residents.