On September 12, 2013, the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association (SLPWA) filed an action, pursuant to Article 78, to compel disclosure by the New York State Department of Health of documents related to Department’s review of the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing. Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association seeks the documents pursuant to a Freedom of Information Law request.
The Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) allows persons who have received a denial of access to commence a proceeding pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR). Article 78 is the section of the CPLR that establishes the procedure for challenging the determinations of government administrative agencies, public bodies or officers.
SLPWA filed a FOIL request with the DOH on November 25, 2012, seeking records relating the public health impacts of high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) of the Marcellus and Utica shales. SLPWA sought these records to ascertain what factual information was being collected and reviewed by DOH and the instructions given to DOH staff regarding the DOH health impact study of hydraulic fracturing announced by the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation.
This health impact assessment has great public significance, and SLPWA seeks more information about the factual materials being reviewed by DOH than has been made publicly available. In January, Seneca Lake Pure Waters reached an agreement with the NYS Department of Health on a possible resolution of the FOIL lawsuit that was filed in September. Agreement
In this agreement, DOH agreed to respond, beginning in March 2014, to a new FOIL request for information that the department had in its files as part of their internal health impact assessment. SLPWA re-submitted a more detailed FOIL request on January 10, 2014.
In March, SLPWA began to receive documents in response to the new FOIL request. The first release included 792 MB of information contained in 29 files on 3 CDs. The 29 “files” range in content from a single document, such as an extensive report on a topic related to the health impact of HVHF, to a file that may contain many individual documents, such as letters from individuals and organizations commenting on proposed regulations or newspaper clippings. Thus the 29 files on these disks represent thousands of documents ... a potpourri of information. .
Our initial observation is that, if the files DOH has shared with us are representative of the information they are weighing in reaching a decision on the public health safety of HVHF, they are considering the right kinds of input. Whether the best information in specific health areas is being considered is hard to judge from what we have received so far.
We are in the process of analyzing the documents received to date to determine how responsive this information is to our request to make a determination whether to appeal any redactions and withheld documents.
Additionally, SLPWA began in April to receive email files from DOH. This portion of the request is due to be completed in May and our review will be completed after that.
SLPWA will post all files received under the FOIL request in its Public Folder on Dropbox to make them available to the public. Prior to posting, the received files are run through an Optical Character Recognition program and they are bookmarked, so that they are searchable and they are easier to navigate for users. Any association's conclusions or positions regarding these files will be posted either on our Project Page or in Board of Director's minutes after such conclusions have been reviewed and discussed by the Board.
The documents received in the first release are available on Dropbox at the following links (these are very large files; download using a fast connection to a computer not a mobil device):
Disc 1: Click here to view or download
Disc 2: Click here to view or download
As we complete review of the additional released documents, they will also be placed on Dropbox. Watch our website for more developments on the response to our FOIL request and additional links. For detailed instructions on the use of these files, go to our project page on fracking.
If you are interested in receiving notices of additional released documents, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Anne Kowalski, President