Uni Blake says the DRBC has put politics before science with its proposal to enact a fracking ban based on equally political New York State health studies.
The following is Uni’s testimony at yesterday’s DRBC hearing:
My name is Uni Blake, and I am a scientific advisor at the American Petroleum Institute with a background in Toxicology, and Public Health.
In the field, risk assessors typically assess health risks in light of the related study uncertainties. They are expected to provide clear and concise answers to complex questions about health, based on existing scientific evidence.
But as the scientific community knows that is rarely how science behaves. However, there are strategies such as a weight of evidence assessment that are used to evaluate evidence that takes into account different lines of information and data.
Science about health, as we know it, is not a popularity contest; where credibility is given to sheer numbers of voices or papers with one point of view or reference, but instead, it is a process where conclusions are determined by the weight of the available evidence —evidence that is collected and organized in a systematic and transparent way.
Unfortunately, the DRBC has short-circuited the process and gone straight to relying on one, politically-driven reference, New York’s Department of Health Review as presented in the SGEIS [prepared when New York was developing hydraulic regulations that turned into a ban]. We implore the DRBC to seriously consider its reliance on New York’s SGEIS conclusions as a point of departure for its ban.
New York’s process of reviewing health did not follow a weight of evidence approach. It was not transparent; it was not systematic, it did not consider all lines of evidence, and did not assess how industry standards and practices, along with how NYS DECs proposed regulations would have worked to reduce and eliminate exposures.
New York’s conclusion relied on a precautionary approach in light of the uncertainties. While on the surface this precautionary approach appears to be protective — some leading scientists agree that invoking the principle in this manner without any avenue for recourse is not sound public policy. It acts as a barrier and limits technological advancement; it also limits the assessment of other options and realizations.
In closing, industry continues to invest in technological advances that prevent and eliminate discharge to the basin; technologies used in drilling and the management of water resources that are in line with DRBC’s goals for the basin, that is to conserve, protect, maintain and improve the quality of the basin’s waters.