On Monday morning, Capital New York published an eye-popping report that suggests a federal fracking study commissioned by the Cuomo administration was edited, and later delayed, by the same administration when it became clear that study was going to “result in a number of politically inconvenient conclusions for Governor Andrew Cuomo.”
To environmentalists who have observed the Cuomo Administration over the past four years, the news that wasn’t particularly shocking. “It’s not surprising,” Chris Amato, staff attorney for Earthjustice says of the report that officials from the Department of Environmental Conservation meddled with the U.S. Geological Survey’s report.
“The Cuomo Administration has politicized the Department of Environmental Conservation and that’s evident a number of pending issues that are before the department,” Amato says, citing the expansion of crude oil activities at the port of Albany as one example. “The Cuomo Administration is deeply involved in the department’s deliberations on these issues and is definitely controlling the game.”
Capital’s story, which compared a early version of the report (obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request) with the version that was ultimately released, reveals, among other things, that one sentence that warned gas pipelines and underground storage could inadvertently introduce methane into drinking water supplies was removed, and another line was added suggesting methane risks could be reduced by designing better gas wells.
As reporter Scott Waldman notes, Cuomo “is currently weighing whether or not to permit gas storage in underground salt caverns near the Finger Lakes. Opponents of the project have raised the prospect of methane pollution as a reason to deny the project.”
Seth Gladstone, spokesman for Food and Water Watch says the organization, which opposes fracking, is “deeply alarmed by the fact that the Cuomo Administration has apparently manipulated a federal study on fracking safety.”
On fracking, Gladstone says, “Governor Cuomo has consistently said that he would ‘let the science decide.’ That his administration would apparently meddle in a federal study on the science sort of completely discredits that stated position from him.”
There is currently a moratorium on fracking in New York. Governor Cuomo has promised he will not lift it before the election, now less than a month away. The study in question was commissioned to help inform Cuomo’s decision on the matter.
Monday’s revelations notwithstanding, Heather Leibowitz, director for Environmental New York, says, “The bottom line is we know fracking is a dangerous drilling process that produces large quantities of carcinogenic and radioactive wastewater, creates global warming pollutants, poisons freshwater supplies, and causes negative health impacts that New Yorkers can’t ignore.”