Misinformed Outside Reviewer Demonstrates Inadequacy and Failure of New York State Fracking Health Review

Press Releases

State’s Health Review Discredited by Revelation that After Finishing Review, Outside Health Reviewer has Major Gaps in Understanding of Critical Health Issues Related to High Volume Fracking in NYS

(Albany) – Concerned Health Professionals of NY released a joint statement declaring New York State’s health impact assessment grossly inadequate and flawed. Following completion of his analysis of the state’s health review, outside reviewer, Richard Jackson, gave an hour-long webinar about health impacts in which he demonstrates an alarming lack of understanding about major issues relevant to fracking’s health impacts in New York State. The health experts released a written annotated transcript (attached) of Jackson’s webinar that illustrates gaps in Jackson’s knowledge of key issues. The annotations were written by Larysa Dyrszka, MD, Concerned Health Professionals of NY; Anthony Ingraffea, PhD, PE, Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, Cornell University; Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL, Catskill Mountainkeeper; and Sandra Steingraber, PhD, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Ithaca College and founder, Concerned Health Professionals of New York.

Jackson’s lack of knowledge – coming after finishing his analysis of New York’s health review – undermines the credibility of the secret internal assessment the state has done. The assessment does not meet Governor Cuomo’s promise to conduct the most comprehensive health review ever and it is inadequate to ensure the protection of New Yorkers. The coalition calls on Governor Cuomo to open every facet of the state’s health review for public participation and comment, and calls on the governor not to make any decision about fracking or move forward in any way. 

Among the issues are:

  • Jackson praises as “excellent” a Pennsylvania study that has long been discredited as industry propaganda. Additionally the authors of that report are two of the same researchers who later authored the fraudulent report that prompted the University of Buffalo to shut down its Shale Resources and Society Institute last November.
  • Jackson says that he is “not in a position to debate” whether reports of water contamination from drilling and fracking operations are true or not. Why not? The information has been quantified, verified, and this should be a relevant data-based analysis.
  • Jackson mistakenly says that fracking wastewater is no longer discharged into rivers and streams. The practice goes on in other states and would be allowed with a special permit in New York State.
  • Jackson is misinformed about the contribution of shale gas extraction to climate change, and bases his statements on outdated information. For instance, Jackson says that “Methane is a greenhouse gas that aggravates global warming about 15 times more effectively than CO2.” This is incorrect information. Also see here. 

Along with the annotated transcript, Dr. Nolan and Dr. Steingraber of Concerned Health Professionals of NY released this statement:

“Richard Jackson’s ignorance of critical issues related to the health impacts of fracking demonstrates the inadequacy of New York State’s limited, secret, internal health review. The cursory and poorly informed content of Jackson’s January 9, 2012 one-hour, national webinar presentation undermines the credibility of the state’s review process, as it suggests that the materials provided to Dr. Jackson were dated and poorly sourced, rather than gleaned from up-to-the-minute peer-reviewed and independent scholarly reports. By his own account, Jackson gave the presentation, titled “Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts Human Health: Public Health Strategies to Reduce the Risks” after he finished his analysis of New York State’s health review.

“In his remarks, Jackson demonstrates limited and misinformed perspectives about many of the most significant issues around fracking, at one point praising as ‘excellent’ a Pennsylvania study that has been long discredited as industry propaganda and that was written by two of the same researchers who later authored the fraudulent report that prompted the University of Buffalo last November to shutter its Shale Resources and Society Institute.  At another point, Jackson says that he is ‘not in a position to debate’ whether reports of water contamination from drilling and fracking operations are true or not. In speaking about the discharge of fracking waste water into rivers and streams, he says, ‘that doesn’t go on any longer, I’m told,’ although the practice is common in other states with ongoing fracking operations and, in fact, would be allowed, with a special permit, under the draft regulations for fracking recently released in New York State. Jackson’s understanding of the contribution of shale gas extraction to climate change is incomplete and based on old research.

“For Jackson to be misinformed about critical issues after finishing his review demonstrates why allowing New York State’s health review to be narrow in scope and shrouded in secrecy is woefully inadequate. This is underscored by gaps in Richard Jackson’s knowledge about the myriad complicated pathways of potential exposure, well failures, rates of methane leakage, earthquakes, and hazardous air pollutants. Governor Cuomo has promised the citizens of New York the most comprehensive health review ever done, and New Yorkers have been told that the outside consultants would review it in great detail in order to ensure the safety of their families. There is now no doubt that the state’s review to date does not meet this standard. As Dr. Jackson himself says: ‘So big take away, I do think that research into safer and healthier energy sources and research into the health impacts of these sources and doing all cost accounting and full health impact assessment of our energy sources is what we need in the United States.’

“What Jackson calls for nationally, we need in New York. The Department of Health absolutely must open its health review for public participation and comment. Governor Cuomo must keep his promise to protect the health of New Yorkers. At this time there can be no decision about fracking, and the state cannot move forward in any way.” 

Gannett News reporter Jon Campbell revealed emails from Richard Jackson showing that he finished his review well before he gave this January 9, 2013 webinar. See the February 8, 2013 article by Campbell titled “Health consultants made fracking recommendations weeks ago.”

Dr. Kathleen Nolan, MD, MLS, Catskill Mountainkeeper, said,  “If New York State were to move forward based on the level of understanding of the health impacts of fracking as revealed in this presentation, New York State would be in big trouble.”

Sandra Steingraber, PhD, Concerned Health Professionals of New York, said, “As the day for the governor’s decision looms, we continue to be in the dark.  On the one hand we are told by DEC Commissioner Martens that the health review is determinative. On the other hand, we are told by DOH Commissioner Shah that the charge given the reviewers was very narrow. We don’t know what that narrow charge was nor what documents they received to review. And now one of the reviewers—a public health scientist whom I greatly admire—shows, during a public seminar, a very shaky grasp of the fundamentals of fracking. I’m not sleeping well.”

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Annotated Transcript of “Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts Human Health: Public Health Strategies to Reduce the Risks”

A webinar by Richard J. Jackson, MD, Professor and Chair, Environmental Health Sciences, UCLA School of Public Health