AP Photo/Tim Roske
Protesters rally against hydrofracking as the legislative session winds down at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. A coalition of 100 environmental, health and community groups called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reject any demonstration project for shale gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” (AP Photo/Tim Roske)
By Phil Corso

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week requesting a personal meeting to further discuss hydraulic fracturing before the governor decides if he would allow the controversial oil and gas extraction procedure in the state.

In the letter, Avella asked Cuomo to meet with scientists, medical professionals and environmentalists to reconsider his position on the drilling method, which involves the extraction of natural gas and petroleum through the drilling of rock, before making any policy decisions.

“As you so aptly stated in your comments in Utica, we ‘should be talking to everyone’ concerned on this issue and the decision to allow or not allow hydrofracking in New York state ‘should not be made in secret,’” Avella said in the letter, citing the governor’s own words used at a press event in Utica, N.Y., July 18.

Although Cuomo said he has not yet decided whether or not he supports the procedure, The New York Times reported last month that his administration was considering a plan to permit hydrofracking in certain counties along the New York-Pennsylvania border. Cuomo said at a news conference earlier this month that he wanted to wait for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to finish examining the drilling method before making any decisions.

Avella said he hoped to help push the debate further by engaging the governor in talks with professionals opposed to the controversial drilling practices. According to Avella, Cuomo’s office has not shed enough light on the medical and scientific sides of the hydrofracking debate, with opponents arguing that water supplies might become contaminated or ruined due to harmful chemicals used in the process.

“Many of these professionals have spent tremendous amounts of time and resources to provide both the administration and DEC with scientific data raising their professional concerns about the safety of hydrofracking,” Avella said. “Yet inexplicably, there has been virtually no return outreach from either your staff or DEC staff to engage in detailed conversations with these respected members of the medical and scientific communities.”

Avella has been a longtime opponent of the hydrofracking procedure and participated in an environmental and economic debate surrounding the subject in Douglaston earlier this year.

In his letter, from which the senator asked for a response within 30 days, Avella said Cuomo had already included the gas and oil industries in hydrofracking discussions. By requesting his own personal meeting, the senator said he hoped the governor would consider both sides of the debate.

“I respectfully submit that it is now time to expand that review and information sharing to include the numerous medical professionals, scientists and environmentalists who have repeatedly stated their willingness to engage in this process,” Avella said.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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