In a letter sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo and ten Albany legislators Monday, Communications Workers Union of America District 1 Health Care Coordinating Council Chair John Klein urged the lawmakers to prohibit the controversial natural gas drilling procedure known as hydrofracking in New York. In addition to communications workers, the CWA represents roughly 15,000 people working in the health care industry. “I am writing regarding concerns we have about the hydrofracking process and its potential impacts on human health and the environment,” Mr. Klein wrote. “As health care workers, we would be on the front line of any public health problems that result from hydrofracking.”
Hydrofracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing, involves extracting gas from underground rock layers by creating fractures with a cocktail of pressurized water and chemicals. Environment activists argue the procedure is dangerous and want it banned outright. Proponents of hydrofracking, including the natural gas industry, which has spent millions lobbying for the procedure, promise fracking is safe and will create jobs. Governor Cuomo lifted a state ban on hydrofracking this past summer and, with the Department of Environmental Conservation, is conducting hearings to come up with rules to regulate and allow hydrofracking in New York. Proposed DEC regulations would permit the procedure in the state apart from the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, which would be free from fracking and surrounded by a 4,000 foot buffer zone.
Mr. Klein’s letter comes after the CWA Health Care Coordinating Council adopted an anti-hydrofracking resolution December 2.
“On the basis of current evidence, we are unconvinced that horizontal hydrofracking can be carried out in New York and New Jersey in a way that is protective of public health. The HCCC requests elected officials and regulators to prohibit horizontal hydrofracking in New York and New Jersey,” the text of the resolution read. “As health care workers, we request that this prohibition remain in effect unless rigorous data are produced demonstrating practices under which horizontal hydrofracking can be undertaken without serious impacts on public health and water quality.”
Mr. Klein’s letter noted that “there has been no training or outreach to health care workers in New York that would prepare us for the specifics of hydrofracking accidents, spills or exposures.” He also referenced a Department of Energy report released last month that said, “there is a real risk of serious environmental consequences” from hydrofracking and an announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency that fracking may have led to groundwater pollution in Wyoming.
“Governor, the evidence is mounting on an almost weekly basis that the industry does not have a secure handle on how to hydrofrack safely,” Mr. Klein wrote. “We urge you not to sign off on this process unless and until they are able to clearly prove that shale gas resources can be processed responsibly, without sacrificing public health and the environment.”