Letter to Governor Cuomo

October 4th, 2012


The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
New York State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224


Dear Governor Cuomo,


We in the medical and scientific community in New York State are pleased that our efforts to bring the public health impacts of the largest land use decision in New York State’s history to the attention of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Health (DOH) and to the forefront of the SGEIS process have been heard. We were heartened that in DEC’s September 20, 2012 announcement regarding a health review, Commissioner Martens wrote: “Only after this evaluation is completed will a decision be made about whether to permit high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York. Obviously if there was a public health concern that could not be addressed we would not proceed.” However, a DOH review of work already prepared by DEC on this topic is not enough to answer the question of whether there is a public health concern that cannot be addressed.  New York must commission a full Health Impact Assessment to better understand the impacts of fracking (meaning the whole process of gas extraction, from site development to delivery) on public health and the measures needed to protect our communities.

DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens’  September 20th press release rejecting our request for a Health Impact Assessment and announcing DOH’s review of DEC’s work brings several concerns and questions to mind, including:

  • What is the health impact analysis document currently under DOH’s review and who will have access to it?
  • Will the questions we’ve been asking–about the health effects of air and water pollution, soil contamination, radon, community impacts, worker safety, psychosocial stress, developmental toxicants and endocrine disruptors, and social justice—be addressed in this review?
  • Will there be transparency and how will that be achieved?
  • Will it be inclusive of all stakeholders?
  • Will the DOH which previously had expressed that health impacts were adequately addressed in the 2011 draft of the SGEIS now be able to do an objective review, and if so, what has changed?
  • What is the process for this review?
  • What expertise does DEC have to conduct a health analysis in the first instance?

Our foremost concern is that the review proposed by Commissioner Martens differs significantly from the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) we requested.  A comprehensive Health Impact Assessment, is a process designed by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, and outlined in a guidance document by the National Academies of Science, http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13229, for precisely the kind of decision which DEC is currently weighing.  An HIA is:

  • Transparent;
  • Inclusive of all stakeholders;
  • A recognized process which includes several public health tools;
  • Conducted by an entity with public health expertise; and
  • Includes public participation throughout the process.

We have received no indication that DOH’s proposed review will meet these standards.  There also seems to be a misconception about the Health Impact Assessment process, alluded to by Commissioner Martens in his statement that “the decision-making will remain a governmental responsibility”.  A Health Impact Assessment informs and provides recommendations to the decision-makers, and does not, in any way, take away the decision from the decision-makers.

In closing, we would like to offer the following observation for your consideration.  Commissioner Martens rightly refers to the need to establish the legitimacy of the regulatory process if the controversy that has engulfed shale gas fracking in New York is ever to be resolved.  We suggest that you consider, in the face of the overwhelming recommendation of the medical communities of New York State that a Health Impact Assessment be undertaken, what the consequences would be if a credible one is not undertaken and fracking proves to be a health disaster.  It will be impossible to contain the damage to the State’s credibility and authority in this area.  Your Administration seems to have recognized that fact in responding to the demand for some health review, but to do so in this halfhearted and questionable way is to once again ensure your well-meaning efforts will be counterproductive.   The only way to create the basis for public trust that fracking can be done without major threat to public health is to do a truly independent, truly comprehensive, truly transparent assessment, one done with all stakeholders and relevant experts at the table that demonstrates that is the case.  We urge your most careful consideration of these concerns.

Governor Cuomo, we ask that you join us in advocating on behalf of the most vulnerable, assuring that social justice is achieved, and that the relevant scientific information is in the hands of the decision-makers–yours as well as DEC’s.

We request that a copy of the DEC-generated health impact analysis referenced in the Commissioner’s press release  be made available to the public and that you re-consider the proposed DOH review, and instead commission a full and transparent Health Impact Assessment.


Shannon Aether RN, Ithaca, NY

Ellis Arnstein MD, NYC, NY

Michelle Bamberger MS DVM, private practice Veterinarian, Ithaca, NY

Delores Bennett RN, Unadilla, NY

Sharon Berger RN, Trumansburg, NY

Paul C. Bermanzohn MD, Rosendale, NY

Ronald E. Bishop PhD CHO, SUNY Oneonta

Linda Bove RN CPN, Clinical Nurse Educator, Blythedale Children’s Hospital, Valhalla, NY

Kelly K. Branigan RN, Middlefield, NY

Michael P. Branigan CRNA MS, Middlefield, NY

Broome County Medical Society

Christine Brouwer, Founder, Mira’s Movement/Supporting Kids with Cancer

Sarah Buckley RN CCRN, co-founder of Protecting Our Water Rights, East Aurora, NY

Sheila Bushkin-Bedient MD MPH, Public Health and Preventive Medicine Consultant, Waterford, NY

Dyan Campbell RN BSN MPH, Past Sullivan County Public Health Director (1971 – 2000)

Marybeth Carlberg MD, Physician Advisory Board for Onondaga County Health Dept., SUNY Upstate Teaching Faculty, Syracuse, NY

Jeffrey Carlberg MD, SUNY Upstate Teaching Faculty, Syracuse, NY

David O Carpenter MD, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment University at Albany, Rensselaer, NY

Andrew D Coates MD FACP, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, Albany Medical College

Alice Cody RN, Town of Groton, NY

D. Barry Crittenden MD, Instructor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, NYU School of Medicine

Dominick Di Fabio MD, Psychiatrist, Irvington, NY

Christine K Durbak PhD, Psychoanalyst, World Information Transfer, NY, NY

Larysa Dyrszka MD, Pediatrician (retired), Bethel, NY

David Fanion MD, Cooperstown, NY

Donna Flayhan PhD, Director, The Lower Manhattan Public Health Project, New Paltz, NY

Michael Fox PhD, Psychologist, NYC, NY

Kathryn Frankiewich RN MSN PNP,  Buffalo, NY

Amy Freeth MD, Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Cooperstown, NY

Jacquelyn H Gailor BSN RN, Retired Public Health Director for Cortland County

Marion Giambattista RN, Groton, NY

Cindy Kurpil Gieger RN, Sullivan County Legislator

Cindy Gordon MD, Town of Dryden, NY

David Gould MD MBA, NY, NY

Pamela Griffith BSN, Homer, NY

Alice Grow RN, Newfield, NY

Elizabeth Hess, Family Nurse Practitioner, Gannett Health Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Patricia Jacob, Family Nurse Practitioner, Hematology/Oncology Bassett Medical Center, Cooperstown, NY

Jonathan Jiménez Pérez, Mount Sinai School of Medicine Class of 2014, NYC, NY

Marcia Heaney, President, Breast Cancer Network of Western New York

Sueane Hemmer Goodreau ND RN CFNP, Ithaca, NY

Julie Huntsman DVM, Town of Otsego Council, Otsego, NY

Kenneth Jaffe MD, Slope Farms, Meredith, NY

David W Kalb BS MS and current RN student, Freeville, NY

Lila J Kalinich MD, Professor, Columbia University, NYC, NY

Andrew S Kanter MD MPH, Asst. Prof. of Clinical Biomedical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology

Columbia University

Amy Koreen MD, Huntington, NY

David B. Kraskow RN, Cayuga Medical Center, Ithaca, NY

Antoinette Kuzminski MD, Fly Creek, NY

Philip J Landrigan MD MSc, Dean for Global Health,

Ethel H. Wise Professor and Chairman, Department of Preventive Medicine, Professor of Pediatrics

Director, Children’s Environmental Health Center

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NYC, NY

Adam Law MD, Ithaca, NY

Eric London MD, Bethel, NY

Judith Maidenbaum PhD, Psychoanalyst, Kauneonga Lake, NY

Mary McCutcheon RN MS, East Aurora, NY

Michelle C. McNamara RN, Ithaca, NY

Mary Menapace RN, Women’s Health, Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY

Kevin Millar MSN CRNA, Owego, NY

Karen Joy Miller, Founder, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Inc.

Ramon Murphy MD MPH, Professor of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NYC, NY

New York State Breast Cancer Network (a network of 25 organizations located in communities all across the state), Andi Gladstone Executive Director

Kathy Nolan MD MSL, Pediatrician, Regional Director for the High Peaks Catskill Mountainkeeper

Kristine Noonan RN, Nurse Rise ~ Nurses for Safe Water, Buffalo, NY

Michael R. O’Brien MD, Clinical Assistant Instructor, Internal Medicine-Pediatrics, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

Robert Oswald PhD, Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Graham Ottoson CNM NP, Ithaca, NY

Julia Parete, Nurse Practitioner, Trumansburg, Town of Hector, NY

Frederica P. Perera DrPH PhD, Professor of Public Health, Director, Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY

Nina Pesante MD, Vestal, NY

Physicians for Social Responsibility, New York City chapter, Shannon Gearhart MD, President

Margaret A Rafferty DNP MPH, NYC, NY

Leia Raphaelidis RN FNP, Ithaca, NY

Jacqueline Reinhard, Executive Director, SHARE (Self-Help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer)

Marian H Rose PhD, Bedford, NY

Toby G Rossman PhD, Professor of Environmental Medicine, NYU Langone School of Medicine, Tuxedo, NY

Carol S Ryan RN MPH, Director of Public Health/Patient Services, Sullivan County Public Health Services

William Sawyer PhD, Toxicology Consultants & Assessment Specialist, LLC, Skaneateles, NY

Ted Schettler MD MPH, Science Director, Science and Environmental Health Network

Stephen S. Schneider DDS, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Deposit, NY

Peter Schwarz MD, Ithaca, NY

Joan Sheehan, President, CRAAB! (Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer)

Howard Silcoff MD, Town of Dryden, NY

Ken Spaeth MD MPH, Assistant Professor, Hofstra University School of Health Sciences

Sandra Steingraber PhD, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Department of Environmental Studies, Ithaca College

Shanna H Swan PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair for Research and Mentoring, Department of Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY

Tompkins County Medical Society

Paul F Torrisi MD, Retina-Vitreous Surgeons of CNY Inc., Associate Clinical Professor Ophthalmology, Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY

Mary Jane Uttech RN MSN, Marathon, NY

Kitty Vetter RN, Sullivan County Legislator

Gregory Weiland PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Cornell University, Groton, NY

Laura Weinberg, Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, NY

Richard Weiskopf MD, Syracuse, NY