State health commissioner to assess impacts of drilling

ALBANY – The state health commissioner will review the health impacts of shale gas drilling before a moratorium is lifted, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said Thursday.

Martens said he has rejected calls from health and environmental groups for an health impact analysis by a university school of public health or other independent group, saying such a review is the job of government. Martens said he’s asked Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to assess DEC’s own health impact analysis.

“I have also asked Dr. Shah to identify the most qualified outside experts to advise him in his review,” Martens said in a prepared statement. “While the review will be informed by outside perspectives on the science of hydrofracking, the decision-making will remain a governmental responsibility.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will decide whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” only after the DEC review that began in 2008 is completed. Martens said the review won’t be complete until Shah’s review has been done. Martens didn’t say whether Shah has begun the review, or indicate how long it would take.

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