Remarks by Uni Blake; Town of Maryland, Otsego County
Today, I speak as mother, and as a woman of the Shale Country. I speak driven by the scientist in me, who has been in search of answers and solutions.
The one thing I do not speak as--- is an activist. I am here because I feel obligated to speak up. I am here calling on the state to take a stronger leadership role. In your silence people have manipulated facts in an attempt to compensate for the lack of information - Information that YOU hold.
While some may feel that there is a potential threat to public health in the process of developing natural gas, I would counter and say a PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT already exist by us NOT developing NYS resources.
ONE- the current fuels being utilized - NYC struggles with Asthma and other respiratory ailments. In a publication titled “the Bottom of the Barrel”, the EDF discusses the relationship between the fuel we burn and our health. In the report we learn how black smoke billows out of buildings in NYC due the combustion of toxic residual fuels. The smoke is laden with nickel and black carbon creating a significant public health crisis. New York City has TWICE the national asthma hospitalization rate for children under 14. This is a public health crisis that can be averted by switching to an affordable and readily available (if developed locally) CLEANER BURNING Natural Gas.
TWO: Rural poverty - A Community Health Assessment conducted in my home county – Otsego, paints a clear picture of the public health issues brought on by poverty. Among the mid-state rural counties, Otsego County had the highest percentage of residents living below poverty in 2007 (15%). Why? Manufacturing jobs have been replaced by service sector jobs. These jobs pay among the lowest in the state and fail to provide adequate health and dental benefits. This creates an elevation in the number of people affected by community health indicators such as mental health, substance abuse, early cancer detection, and dental health. We need an infusion of better paying jobs to address the health benefits and improve rural health care.
Potential health effects that have been presented time and time again by advocacy groups do not reflect already existing studies. The state is well aware of this fact. Studies that measured air emissions at the exposure point found emission concentrations minimal and below levels that would affect health or benchmark levels. Studies also show that water management has been effective at preventing public exposure. Remember - No Exposure - No Health Issues. Studies have also proven that those closest to it- those working in the midst of it have health equivalent to the general population.
We can all agree that there is always room for more data – but in the form of monitoring data – not prospective data from an expensive and time consuming Health Impact Assessments. With the collection of already conducted studies, and lack of factual data that links rhetorical self-reported health conditions to gas wells, Natural gas development does not pass the screening algorithm that is used to determine the necessity of HIAs. I am confident that the NYSDOH is well aware of these facts and urge them to complete the health assessment in a timely manner.
In closing, I would like to remember a friend. Like me, Joe Schoeberl was not an activist. He was a life-long dairy farmer. He was also an avid hunter. He respected the land and was good steward of it. Joe felt strongly that natural gas was the shot in the arm that our region needed. If Joe was here, he would not be standing on the podium but doing what Joe did, he would be a face in the crowd quietly imploring the state to provide the leadership that is sorely needed. But Joe can’t be here today, he passed away on September 11th holding onto the hope that region could return to prosperity with development of natural gas.
I implore the Governor and the Commissioner to stop kicking the can down the road - to make a decision – based on science and facts. Allow local natural gas development to give hope back to rural NY. Allow us to utilize local natural gas as a cleaner more affordable burning fuel. It is the right choice for upstate; is the right choice for downstate.