Is the cautious approach to regulating natural gas extraction preventing a public health catastrophe?
The New State Assembly felt that it is. On Wednesday March 5th, they voted to extend a moratorium that will continue to put on hold the development of New York State’s natural gas resources utilizing High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing.
When asked about the vote, most legislators cited a list of potential negative impacts. Their action inadvertently offered an incomplete picture.
According to the legislators, regulatory decisions should rest solely on potential negative impacts; this stance unfortunately ignores any benefits.
There is a cost to the delay. At the current air pollution rate, health conditions associated with the inhalation of ultrafine soot or particulate matter (PM2.5) will remain (28,000 premature deaths in United States, Canada and Cuba (WHO Global Burden of Disease study) and 3,200 in New York City (NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene)).
Three years ago a study by the Environmental Defense Fund (“The Bottom of the Barrel: How the Dirtiest Heating Oil Pollutes Our Air and Harms Our Health.” 16 December 2009) identified how PM2.5-related negative health impacts could be reduced by replacing heating systems with cleaner burning alternatives like natural gas.
Utilizing this information, New York City issued a mandate that required polluting heating systems to be “cleaned” up. A decision that will save lives and reduce emergency room visits.
This was good news to the 300,000 children in NYC diagnosed with asthma. What about the asthmatic children living in the rest of the state? When will they hear good news?
Natural gas resources can be developed responsibly and safely by systematically addressing factual concerns. If natural gas is utilized as a cleaner fuel across the state, it can be anticipated that health indicators will improve.
Uni Blake is an Environmental Consultant who resides in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. She has been studying water and air quality monitoring strategies that can be utilized to ensure the protection of human health and the environment.