22 Aug 2014
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Castelli, Cohen Call for Fracking Health Study

The fracking debates continue as pro-and-anti frackers wait for the Cuomo administration to make a decision about natural gas drilling in New York.

While the public waits for a decision from Albany about whether drilling for natural gas in New York State will be allowed—and if it is, where and how it will be monitored—the debate rages on.

Anti-fracking groups held protests and in Mount Kisco, near Governor Cuomo's hometown of New Castle.

And lawmakers continue to raise questions as well.

Last Friday, and state senate hopeful joined forces in Bedford to bring attention to a bill passed earlier this summer in the state assembly which calls for a full-health impact study to be added to the state's Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Study (SGEIS) on hydraulic fracturing.

"We think should move prudently," said Castelli, a co-sponsor of the bill with upstate Democratic Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton. "The gas has been in the ground 288 million years—it can stay there a little bit longer until we can make decisions based on science."

The pair held a press conference at the Byram Lake Reservoir, which straddles the Bedford-North Castle border, and provides drinking water for Mount Kisco and the surrounding area.

Proponents of fracking hail the process as a profitable alternative to oil and method for obtaining a relatively inexpensive energy source, while opponents criticize what they say are potential health hazards, such as leaking toxic chemicals into local water supplies.

Castelli and Cohen discussed the need to know more about the chemicals used in the drilling process and how they might impact the local water supply.

A moratorium has been in place in New York state since 2008 that prevents issuing new permits for the practice. Both anti-frackers and energy companies await news on the ban's status. Some news outlets have reported that Gov. Cuomo will soon lift the ban and release the rules and regulations around drilling.

On Friday, a spokesperson in Gov. Cuomo's office told Patch that the governor was still accepting public comment on the hydro-fracking and the administration had not yet made a decision.

Cohen thanked the governor for his leadership on the issue, and said if elected, he would fight for communities to have the power to make their own decision about whether to allow the practice.

"This is really an issue of home rule," he said. "Each town, each village should be allowed to make this decision for themselves—whether or not to permit this," said Cohen. "I support Supervisor Lee Roberts in her fight to ban hydro-fracking here in Bedford...I will fight with her to continue that ban." 

In other parts of the state, local officials are urging Cuomo to lift the ban, citing an economic boom in Pennsylvania as a result of natural gas drilling and their desire to reap its financial rewards.

When asked what support he had for the bill calling for a health impact study—particularly from legislators in upsate and Western New York who may see natural gas drilling as a way to create jobs—Castelli responded by saying though the state needed a jobs boost, it shouldn't be at the expense of the environment.

For his part, he said the concerns of Bedford residents and other locals in Northern Westchester were different from their upstate neighbors.

"When you frack a high-volume well, you use three to eight million gallons of water. Where are we getting that water? Most of us here have wells, fed from aquifers as far north as the Castkills and Albany," he said, describing the negative impact of drawing such a high volume of water that could possibly become contaminated with the chemicals used on drilling.

Castelli is seeking re-election as a state lawmaker and faces challenger in the race for the newly drawn 93rd district; Cohen is running against in the race for New York's 37th senate district.

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