We Need Decision Making Power
New York State Ban on Fracking Now
The broad organized resistance statewide to fracking in New York, the dangerous gas drilling method, brought about another delay by Governor Cuomo in opening the state to fracking. A health review is not yet complete and Cuomo is waiting for the report before deciding. As a result, another 45-day public comment period will begin February 27 concerning the environmental impact statement and regulations proposed by the NY Department of Conservation (DEC). So for now, no high-volume fracking is permitted in the state.
As an indication of public opposition to fracking, for the last DEC comment period lasting only 30 days, anti-fracking organizers secured more than 204,000 comments against fracking, many demanding a New York Ban Now! As well, actions such as demonstrations in Albany, Binghamton and Buffalo continue to be organized across the state, all united in demanding a ban. Many have raised the undemocratic character of the decision making, where a single executive can decide. They reject Cuomo's refused to submit to the broad demand for a ban. Mmany are also concerned that he may still go ahead with his plan for 40 “experimental” wells along the Southern Tier. Organizers recognize this “experiment” as a means for the energy monopolies to open the door to fracking. The people across the Southern Tier, the southern poriton of the state bordering on Pennsylvania, have also mobilized to ban fracking. Their firm demand to the Governor: No Sacrifice Zone! Ban Fracking Now!
The energy monopolies are pushing hard to lift the New York State moratorium on fracking. They have already secured many leases on private lands and want the state to start issuing permits for drilling. They are also seeking use of public lands. Given that Cuomo has met with the monopolies, and the head of the DEC’s Division of Mineral Resources Bradley J. Field worked for these private interests and still represents them, anti-fracking organizers are not letting up in the fight for a ban. As well, Joseph Martens, the commissioner of the DEC, said right after Cuomo announced the delay that the DEC could quickly issue permits even before the comment period is over, if the health review “allayed fears” about fracking.
Two things are coming to the fore in the situation. One is that private interests, in this case the energy and war monopolies, are usurping power and more openly using public institutions to serve their private interests. Despite broad public opposition, including that of local governance, fracking is going forward in many states, like Pennsylvania, and could well proceed in New York. The monopoly interests are especially maneuvering at the executive level, in this case the Office of the Governor, to secure their private interests. The government is protecting the private interests when its responsibility is to the public and defending the public interests. An indication of this is Cuomo’s continued emphasis that New York is “open for business.”
Secondly, this elimination of government responsibility to the public makes clear the need for a new direction for political affairs. Decision-making power needs to reside with the public, not the Governor. There is a need for working people to represent themselves, to have their own worker politicians in government, not representatives of the energy and war monopolies. To open the path for such a direction, public financing of the election process — not the candidates — is a step to be fought for now. The broad concern about the dangers of fracking and the just demand for a ban can be strengthened by united action on the political front for public financing. Advancing both as an integral whole can serve the public interests while also blocking efforts by the monopolies to secure their private interests at public expense.
A lively and militant Buffalo demonstration to Ban Fracking Now brought together more than 130 people from various organizations active in the city. The action took place February 7 in front of the Buffalo office of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Participants organizing on a variety of fronts, such as housing, healthcare workers, environment, electoral reform, anti-war and more all stood as one against fracking, the dangerous gas drilling method demanded by the energy monopolies. Students from Erie Community College (ECC) and Buffalo State College participated, as did many other youth. A teacher from an ECC health class brought her students, who had seen a film about the dangers of fracking and joined in the action. New York (NY) state representatives also spoke, voicing their opposition. The action was a success both in its firm stand to Ban Fracking Now and in making clear that problems impacting the general interests of society, like fracking, are a responsibility of all. There were no divisions between the various fronts of work represented but rather a single stand defending the human and natural environment.
The crowd kept up a variety of chants and urged the cars and trucks passing by to lend their support. Many did so, honking their horns and waving. This included support from garbage collectors, who honked as their trucks passed by, joining in the need to defend the environment.
Many of those who spoke provided facts and information about the dangers of fracking. They also highlighted the need for the government to do a comprehensive and independent health assessment, as it would undoubtedly reveal the many serious health risks posed by fracking. These include not only poisoning the water but also releasing radioactive and cancer-causing toxins into the air and water.
Student participants emphasized that they refuse to see their future jeopardized in the interests of the energy monopolies. Opposing fracking and its destruction of the human and natural environment is a main concern, as reflected by the sizeable participation of youth at the action.
Signs, chants and speakers emphasized that fracking is not something that can be regulated. It is inherently dangerous, as already evident wherever wells have been drilled, whether in Pennsylvania or other states. The necessary solution is a New York State Ban, and a national and international ban.
Participants also commented that while they are the ones protecting the public interest, a responsibility of government, the government is protecting the private military and energy interests. There is no necessity for fracking, in New York or elsewhere. But the energy monopolies are pushing for it as a means to secure yet greater profits while also securing sufficient energy resources for more war. It is not a coincidence that the same war monopolies, like Halliburton and Exxon are the ones behind fracking in NY and across the country. Fracking not only poses dangers to the environment, it is a source for more war making, something also broadly opposed by the youth.
Organized by the Buffalo branch of Food and Water Watch, the action was one of many taking place as efforts to Ban Fracking are increasing. These include those in the Southern Tier, where Cuomo is expected to have 40 “experimental” wells. As well, participants were encouraged to join in efforts to extend the existing Buffalo Ban on Fracking to all of Erie County. A meeting February 15 discussed plans for achieving such a ban.
Southern Tier Residents Organize
Governor Cuomo is considering allowing hydraulic fracturing — fracking — in the Southern Tier on an “experimental” basis. Residents across the Southern Tier are rejecting this plan, saying Cuomo expects them to be the “sacrifice” zone, with their water, land and health sacrificed for the well-being of the oil and gas monopolies. These energy and military monopolies, like Halliburton and Exxon, developed the technology for the most dangerous type of gas drilling, horizontal fracking, which uses millions of gallons of fresh water and pumps millions of gallons of toxic chemicals under high pressure into the ground. Wherever it has been done, poisoning of the water, pollution of the air and land and serious health problems have occurred.
People in the southern tier, including those already being pressured to lease land to the monopolies, many others also concerned about the impact on farming and the environment, Binghamton’s mayor and more have organized the “Save The Southern Tier” anti-fracking network. It spans the five counties near the Pennsylvania border that Cuomo is planning to open to the oil and war monopolies.
In a letter to Cuomo, the network suggested the governor has been misled by special interests and misinformed about the level of support in the Southern Tier. They urged Cuomo to meet with his “constituents who oppose fracking,” just as he has with the “out-of-state gas industry,” (see article above).
“Governor Cuomo needs to know that our numbers are growing as more and more citizens in this designated area learn the risks posed by the gas industry: the destruction of vast quantities of our water; the pollution of our wells, and waterways with their hazardous waste; the constant air, light, and noise pollution from wells, pipelines, and compressor stations; and the destruction of our roads by the very heavy trucks that will make thousands of trips for each well, and most importantly, sacrificing our family’s health, ” said one activist, whose has not leased her land but who is surrounded by others who have. In New York, she can be forced to accept drilling under the “Compulsory Integration,” law.
Said an activist from Chenango County, “I’m proud to call the Southern Tier my home and I refuse to sacrifice my health, my child’s health, and my community’s health for the profit of multinational corporations. The Save the Southern Tier network will amplify the majority resistance that is coming out of our communities.” A nurse active with the network said, “I speak on behalf of the nearly 3000 residents in the Town of Owego in Tioga County who have signed a petition to prohibit hydraulic fracturing. Seven out of ten residents we canvassed door-to-door, a super majority, do not want fracking to occur in the Town of Owego.”
Many are also concerned that even with the health review taking place, it will not be a comprehensive and independent review. Residents suspect, for example, that the Health Department is relying on studies by groups like the UB Shale Institute — forced to close by anti-fracking activists as its “studies” were shown to be disinformation, funded by and directly serving the energy monopolies. So far the Health Department has not released the studies being utilized for its review.
Governor Cuomo has not provided justification for his refusal to have a Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA). This is the broad demand across the state as such a comprehensive assessment is necessary to fully analyze the health impact on the people and especially more vulnerable populations, like children and the elderly. The protocols for such an assessment were developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization (among others), and they are sanctioned by the National Research Council. A comprehensive HIA is the accepted approach for understanding the health effects of a proposed activity. It is especially necessary in a situation like fracking, which poses both immediate and long-term health risks and impacts.
People in the Southern Tier are organizing to ban fracking and consider that there is already ample evidence as to its dangers to the human and natural environment (see their webpage
http://www.savethesoutherntier.org ). They are especially aware of the damage fracking has already caused to their Pennsylvania neighbors to the south. One reason the energy monopolies are pushing to start by opening the Southern Tier is so they can extend their various Pennsylvania pipelines and fracking activities across the border into New York. People in both states are clear in their demand: Ban All Fracking Now!
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We, the residents of the Southern Tier, write to you on behalf a growing opposition in the five counties that have been widely identified as a sacrifice zone should you decide to move forward with fracking. We believe that you have been misinformed about fracking and the level of support in the Southern Tier. We fear that you are listening to out-of-state gas industry lobbyists and that you have been misled by the gas industry’s sophisticated misinformation campaign. These special interests have been manipulating and misinforming many to believe that the Southern Tier supports fracking.
The truth is that the majority of Southern Tier residents do not want fracking. We drink the water that would become contaminated and breathe the air that would make us sick should you decide to move forward with fracking. We are seriously concerned about the possible health impacts. Living on the border of Pennsylvania, we hear many of the horror stories that are coming from over the border. Rashes, nose bleeds, nausea, migraines, vomiting to begin with and later, cancers. We have been listening to New York’s medical and scientific experts who have raised serious health concerns about fracking. We know that the data and evidence show that fracking cannot be done without serious risk to our health, and we will not be the guinea pigs of this practice. We have seen the data about well casing failures, water contamination, air pollution, and still-unexplained negative health impacts.
At night many of us can see and hear the flaring over the border. We know how the towns with fracking have increased crime rates, debilitating truck traffic and diesel fumes, constant dangerous heavy-industrial activity amidst families and next to schools, and local economies unhinged by rapid and short term influxes of transient, out-of-state workers. We have seen the destroyed rivers, streams, farms, forests, and hunting lands across the border. We cannot raise our families and support our businesses in such devastated toxic wastelands.
Furthermore, it is very upsetting and disturbing that you would go to great lengths to ban fracking in the New York City watershed yet you would sacrifice our homes and beautiful farmland. If fracking is safe enough to frack our communities, families and friends then why is it not safe enough for New York City people? This seems like a cynical and hypocritical move motivated purely by politics and not the public safety and well being of all New Yorkers.
Although you have not met with any of your countless constituents who oppose fracking, you met with the out-of-state gas industry on May 9, 2012. Those are the special interests who have orchestrated a manipulative campaign to mislead you and the public into believing that the Southern Tier wants fracking. You owe it to us, your constituents from across the Southern Tier, to meet with us to learn our grave concerns. We are the regular, working class people who call this part of the state our home and want to continue our lives and build a future here. We have no special interests except the prosperity of our families and communities.
You must allow us to be heard. We are citizens like any others. Whereas the out-of-state gas industry would silence our voices, we are New Yorkers and we believe you have a responsibility to represent our best interests and protect our well-being. We call on you to meet with us before you make a decision about fracking in New York State.
On the eve of what could be a major decision in New York’s battle over whether to allow the process of hydraulic fracturing to take place in the state, 135 environmental, public health, faith and labor organizations ran a full-page advertisement in the Des Moines Register today reminding Governor Andrew Cuomo that his presidential aspirations may be affected by his actions on the controversial process. The ad is running just one day before the New York Department of Environmental Conservation could issue its Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on fracking, followed by its rules on the process by February 27.
“Iowa residents have long held the power to sway presidential elections, and now they may also have the ability to help protect communities across the Unites States from fracking,” said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. “Governor Cuomo needs to learn that the road to the White House is not lined with drilling rigs. If he allows even one well in New York, voters in Iowa and elsewhere will remember that in 2016.”
Spearheaded by the national coalition Americans Against Fracking, the ad was endorsed by 350.org, Breast Cancer Action, the Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO Action, Earthworks, Democracy for America, Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and Greenpeace, among others. It is intended to remind the rumored 2016 presidential contender that people across the United States, not just in New York, are watching his actions on fracking.
“Governor Cuomo may emerge as one of the nation’s most principled, powerful leaders, rooted in his achievements on ethics reform and if he follows through on his promises on campaign finance reform. But his biggest test, which would set him apart from most national leaders even of his own party, will be if he stands up to the big oil and gas interests that pollute our nation’s politics with campaign contributions and that are ready to ruin New Yorkers’ drinking water by fracking across the state. Today Iowans, and the nation, are watching,” said Phil Radford, executive director of Greenpeace.
Last month, over 200,000 comments, many of them opposed to fracking, were submitted to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Governor Cuomo is rumored to be considering allowing 10 to 40 demonstration fracking wells in New York, but opponents are concerned that this will set a dangerous precedence for future drilling.
“Hydrofracking is now understood to be the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country. It’s unconscionable that in a post-Sandy world, we would even consider contributing to further climate change,” said Phil Aroneanu co-founder and U.S. campaign director of 350.org.
Fracking is also of concern to residents of Iowa because the oil and gas industry mines sands used in fracking in the state, and the frack sand industry is raising fears about air pollution and water contamination.
“The rush to quench America’s insatiable thirst for oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing is entrenched in the rush to mine the cheap sand necessary for the process from the pristine hills we call home here in northeast Iowa. The issue has become politically volatile, fueled by immense amounts of money spent by the industry to buy the regulations it wants. Governor Cuomo needs to remember that the rush to frack in New York will have lasting consequences for residents of his state — and ours. We urge him to do the right thing and not allow fracking in New York,” noted Jeff Abbas of Allamakee County Protectors.
“Here in Iowa, we have seen what big business allowed to run out of control can do to our environment,” said Adam Mason, state policy director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “Just like corporate agriculture has fouled our waters here in Iowa, fracking and the giant energy companies that promote it have the potential to cause environmental disaster across the country. Iowans care about clean air and clean water, and as candidates look to Iowa for support in 2016, we will be looking at their record on the environment as a gauge for whom to vote.”
“Hydrofracking is a serious threat to the water quality of both rural and urban communities,” added Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member from Des Moines. “We need to focus on clean energy that puts people first and stop kowtowing to corporate polluters.”
An increasingly controversial form of oil and gas extraction, fracking is the process of taking millions of gallons of water, mixing it with tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals – including known carcinogens – and pumping it all underground at extreme pressure to break up rock formations and release oil or natural gas. New techniques and technologies used in the process are more intensive and riskier than conventional drilling, making fracking more dangerous than ever. To date, more than 1,000 reported cases of water contamination have been associated with drilling and fracking.
“A fracking boom would strike a devastating blow to New York’s efforts to fight climate disruption,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The massive greenhouse gas pollution from this dangerous form of oil and gas extraction will fuel climate chaos and extreme weather. To reduce the risk of killer storms like Hurricane Sandy, New York needs to ban fracking.”
As for energy security, industry overstates the role of natural gas as a long-term source of domestic energy, misrepresenting its intentions. As of October 26, the Department of Energy had received 19 proposals to export potentially vast amounts of liquefied natural gas, up to over 40 percent of current U.S. natural gas consumption. Considering this push to export, along with other efforts to increase natural gas demand, Food & Water Watch finds that the United States may only have 50 years worth of natural gas, not the 100 years worth popularly claimed. And this assumes the industry wins completely unrestricted access to drill and frack and assumes that notoriously uncertain estimates of shale gas reserves will prove accurate.
Given these and other concerns, backlash against fracking and drilling is increasing. To date, more than 325 municipalities in the United States, as well as Vermont, Bulgaria and France, have passed resolutions to stop fracking. In November, Longmont, Colorado made history as the first town in Colorado to ban fracking despite the fact that the oil and gas industry poured half a million dollars into opposing the successful ballot measure. In 2011, activists successfully blocked a plan to open the Delaware River to fracking.