State Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, said he was concerned by an independent expert who had been chosen by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to study the impacts of hydrofracking in New York.
The DEC picked Robert Jacobi, a geologist and gas-industry consultant, to review the potential seismic impacts of high-volume horizontal hydrofracking, which is a process of removing natural gas and petroleum by drilling through rock layers, in the state.
Jacobi has taught at the University of Buffalo for more than 30 years, but has also advised gas-drilling companies, such as Pittsburgh’s EQT Corp., for 19 years.
Avella said he was concerned that Jacobi’s association with the gas-drilling industry was a conflict of interest for carrying out the review.
“Unfortunately, nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to the state’s review of hydrofracking,” Avella said. “The fact that the state would choose these so-called independent experts with significant ties to the oil and gas industry is appalling and calls into question the state’s commitment to an open and fair review process.”
The state senator said he had “no confidence” that the hydrofracking review would be objective.
The DEC could not immediately be reached for comment.
Avella said he was also troubled by the fact that the University of Buffalo shut down the Shale Resources and Society Institute run by Jacobi due to the professor’s ties to the industry.
Hydrofracking has been a topic of controversy in New York State. Those who support the procedure argue that it could be a source of energy and revenue for the state. But its opponents say it could pose dangers to the state’s water supply.
Avella has called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to undertake a comprehensive study of the potential health impacts associated with hydrofracking.