An anti-fracking group is suing the state for the release of documents that the State Health Department has reviewed as part of its analysis on the health impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing ("HVHF"). Seneca Pure Waters Association's freedom of information law request was recently denied by the State, and they have commenced a lawsuit in State Supreme Court demanding the release of those records.
The Health Department's review of this issue has been ongoing for some time. Indeed, a leaked report revealed that the Health Department concluded in early 2012 that HVHF can be safely conducted in New York. Despite this initial finding, in September 2012, the Cuomo administration directed the health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, to conduct a further review of the potential health impacts of using HVHF technology. As part of his effort, Dr. Shah contracted with three outside consultants who completed their initial work in January 2013, but whose contracts were thereafter extended until May 31, 2013.
Coinciding with the expiration of those contracts, on May 23, 2013, Governor Cuomo signaled that he expected Dr. Shah's review to be completed in the next several weeks. Yet after a full year, the State Health Department's review remains ongoing and the SGEIS process, which began more than five years ago, remains mired in politics.
The lawsuit seeks a hearing in October, and a decision on whether the Court will order the release of the records is expected shortly thereafter. If this suit is successful, it may provide the pressure needed to put an end to this otherwise unnecessarily protracted process. The alternative appears to be a further delay of the determination by the administration until after the 2014 gubernatorial election.