Our firm is investigating class action lawsuits on behalf of New York State residents who have been exposed to hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” Fracking is a highly controversial and frequently opposed gas and oil retrieval process long criticized by environmentalists. Now, the process has been banned in New York. The decision was made by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo after a four-year review raised a number of health and environmental concerns.
If you or someone you know is affected by fracking, contact Parker Waichman LLP today for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case.
Fracking is a Threat to Public Health, Report Says
Fracking extracts gas and oil by blasting large volumes of water mixed with sand and chemicals into a rock formation. The process has received widespread criticism from environmentalists, who say fracking may contaminate drinking water and may also increase a region’s vulnerability to earthquakes. New York State placed fracking under moratorium in 2008, suspending activity until more research was conducted over its effects on health, the environment, and economy.
In December 2014, Governor Cuomo announced the decision to fully ban fracking in New York. The action was prompted by a health report issued by the New York State Department of Health citing research on the health and environmental impact of fracking activities.
According to The Atlantic, the report highlighted several concerns associated with fracking:
- Respiratory health: Methane emissions from fracking activity in Texas and Pennsylvania have been linked to asthma and other breathing issues, the report indicates. One study also found that upper respiratory problems occurred in 39 percent of residents in southern Pennsylvania who lived within one kilometer of a fracking site; this compares to 18 percent of residents who lived two kilometers away.
- Drinking water: Research reveals that methane may seep into the drinking water, and methane brought from deep shale formations has been found in groundwater aquifiers. One study looked at fracking communities in the Appalachian Plateau and found methane in 82 percent of drinking water samples. In homes that were near natural gas wells, methane levels were six times higher. Homes near fracking sites also had ethane levels that were measured at 23 times higher.
- Seismic activity: Studies from Ohio and Oklahoma reveal that fracking may induce earthquakes. One study found that two earthquakes—a 2.3 magnitude and a 1.5 magnitude—near Preese Hall in the United Kingdom were triggered by fracking activities.
- Climate change: Fracking may exacerbate global warming effects through methane emissions. According to one study, by 2020 New York State would contribute between 7 and 28 percent of the volatile organic compound emissions.
- Soil contamination: Increased levels of radioactive waste were found in the soil analysis of a natural gas site, potentially reflecting surface spills.
- The community: Fracking has been associated with a large increase in car accidents and heavy truck accidents in one Pennsylvania case; the report cites issues such as noise and odor pollution.
- Health complaints: Studies reveal that residents who live near active fracking sites report adverse physical reactions including nausea, abdominal pain, nosebleeds, and headaches. One study in Colorado found a 30 percent increase in congenital heart conditions among individuals who lived closest to fracking sites.
The health report raises questions about how fracking may affect groundwater, climate, and air quality. “Many of the published reports investigating both environmental impacts that could result in human exposures and health implications of [fracking] activities are preliminary or exploratory in nature,” the report states, according to the L.A. Times. “However, the existing studies also raise substantial questions about whether the risks of [fracking] activities are sufficiently understood so that they can be adequately managed.” There is also evidence linking fracking to birth defects, low birth weight, and congenital birth defects in relation to how close the expectant mother is to a fracking site.
“I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, acting commissioner of the N.Y. Department of Health, according to the L.A. Times. “I asked myself, would I let my family live in a community with fracking? The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”
“The potential risks are too great, in fact, not even fully known, and relying on the limited data presently available would be negligent on my part,” Zucker stated.
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