New York Daily News Sunday, September 23, 2012, 4:10 AM
Studying connection between fracking and syphilis would be a waste of time
In their desperation to block Gov. Cuomo from giving the okay for fracking in New York, die-hard opponents of the natural gas drilling technology are floating laugh-out-loud-funny health and environmental threats.
Most hilariously, the enviro-activists have demanded that state officials explore an alleged link between fracking and — we kid you not — syphilis.
They argue that a drilling boom would draw an influx of male workers from other states who would engage in activities of a kind that would spread sexually transmitted diseases.
They also contend that a boom would trigger a housing crunch, adding to homelessness and the health ailments that go along with it.
And that increased truck traffic would not only lead to more road fatalities, but would also — again, no kidding — discourage people from getting the outdoor exercise they need to stay fit.
This is absurd. If New York starts saying no to entire industries on the grounds they might trigger population changes, rising home prices and truck traffic, it might as well turn out the lights.
Have the people pushing these theories considered the health effects of unemployment and poverty — which are all too common in the parts of New York targeted for drilling?
Have they forgotten the public health upsides of harvesting natural gas — which burns far more cleanly than other fossil fuels?
What fracking opponents really want is not a study of imagined risks, but many more months of wheel-spinning in Albany — and additional fodder for litigation.
Hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, involves pumping millions of gallons of chemical-laced water deep into the earth at high pressure to release trapped natural gas. For four years, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has analyzed the extent of true health concerns, such as the potential for air and water pollution.
As a result, the DEC has proposed what everyone acknowledges are some of the tightest regulations in the nation — including an absolute ban on drilling in the entire region surrounding New York City’s reservoirs.
The opponents tried to push DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens into hiring a public health consultant to check out the danger of venereal diseases and all the rest.
Smartly, he went only so far as to ask Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to review whether DEC has appropriately considered health concerns. If faux seriousness is what it takes to head off lawsuits, so be it. Stifling laughter is a small price to pay for progress toward fracking approval.