The Community Fracking Defense Project ramps up local efforts

The Fight Continues Against Fracking in Upstate New York: Catskill Mountainkeeper ramps up effort at local government level

By Betta Broad

High-Volume hydraulic fracking is not currently taking place in upstate New York, but the threat that this process poses to our environment continues to grow in other ways.

Right now a de facto moratorium exists in New York to allow the state’s Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation to research the health and environmental impacts of proposed fracking. We continue to wait for their initial findings but the struggle to prevent gas and oil companies from bringing fracking, its infrastructure, and its waste to New York goes on.

As the oil and gas industry expands fracking in neighboring states, trucks carrying toxic frack waste from sites in Pennsylvania and Ohio travel our roads in New York. Meanwhile, the construction of pipelines to transport fracked gas to New York and the state’s ports has already begun.

Significant victories have already been won against fracking through home rule initiatives in local NYS communities with the passage of bans and ordinances that protect aquifers or regulate zoning, hazardous waste, and road use. Non-profit environmental organizations and lawyers such as Helen and David Slottje have helped to make these early victories possible by offering legal support to advocates on the ground. But much more remains to be done.

In order to help support this important work, in the fall of 2012, Catskill Mountainkeeper teamed up with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to create the Community Fracking Defense Project (CFDP). This joint initiative assists local governments and advocates seeking added control or protections from hydraulic fracturing in their communities. Through the CFDP, we have been providing pro bono legal assistance in the drafting of zoning regulations and land use plans as well as defending anti-fracking regulations already in place.

We are also helping the grassroots efforts of NYS residents and environmental groups in challenging industry-sponsored pro-fracking resolutions and/or other pro-fracking actions.

We want to help your community, too. Please join in our efforts to keep fracking out of NYS at the local level. Click here to learn more, read about recent news, and reach out for assistance to ban fracking in your municipality and to join the effort to stop fracking in New York State.

Also, if you’re interested in volunteering or hosting a forum on home rule in your community, please email betta@catskillmountainkeeper.org

It is an incredible honor to work with anti-fracking advocates around the state and we look forward to continuing to build this historic movement together.

Thank you for all of your support,

Betta

Join Mountainkeeper and Partners at the Catskill Interpretive Center Gala!

Can you believe the Catskill Park doesn’t have a Welcome Center!!  That is about to change.

Catskill Mountainkeeper along with our partners are pleased to announce the Catskills Gateway Gala Event to raise funds for the construction of the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper, New York.  The Center is has gained all approvals and construction will begin this summer.  The Gateway Gala Event is our first fundraising public fundraising effort to match the Federal and State funds already secured.  Below is the invitation to join us on Saturday April 12, 2014 from 5:30-8pm at the Ashokan Center. You can buy tickets by visiting: http://www.catskillinterpretivecenter.org

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Love NY: Don’t Frack it Up

Mountainkeeper’s Betta Broad is producing a wonderful series about why we love New York State and why we don’t want it fracked.  The first episode centers on the town of Callicoon including interviews with Jill Wiener, Ramsay Adams, Mark Ruffalo and others.

Love New York: Don't Frack it Up Film by Betta Broad

Love New York: Don’t Frack it Up Film by Betta Broad

Love NY: Don’t Frack it Up is an interactive multimedia campaign designed to champion New York’s shared resources and encourage their protection from fracking. Check out the Love NY Don’t Frack It Up! video series and join our social media community. Share what you love about New York’s food, beverages, arts and natural beauty by posting photos, videos, tweets and blogs.

The first three episodes of Love NY: Don’t Frack it Up! will be viewable onYouTube and Facebook: Binghamton: March 4; Callicoon: March 11 and New York City: March 18

Watch it here:

Green groups disagree with Moniz’s ‘rhetoric’ on fracking

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Ernest Moniz. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

By Scott Waldman, Capital New York 5:40 p.m. | Feb. 18, 2014
A coalition of New York’s environmental groups sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz on Tuesday, after an interview with Capital in which he praised the job-creating potential of hydraulic fracturing.

Moniz cited Pennsylvania’s experience with fracking as “amazing,” saying drilling had “enormous economic benefits for the state” that could possibly help New York too.

But the state’s environmental groups, which have so far succeeded in prolonging a moratorium on drilling, responded by saying the economic benefits had been overstated and that pro-fracking arguments were industry “rhetoric.”

… The groups signing onto the letter include: New Yorkers Against Fracking, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Citizen Action, Food&Water Watch, Frack Action and New York Public Interest Research Group.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ENITRE CAPITAL NEW YORK ARTICLE

The New York State Water Supply: We Can’t Become Another West Virginia

By Ramsay Adams

Most of New York State’s drinking water comes from right here in the Catskills, and it is renowned for its taste and purity.

Our water is simply amazing, and we need to protect it for all of us who live here, and the 19 million people in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that rely on water from our Delaware and Catskill wathersheds.

Our Catskill water is so pure, it reaches the taps of New York City unfiltered. Sadly, for the most part, we take it for granted that its purity and supply is being protected with vigilence by governmental regulatory agencies.

In our everyday lives, we just trust the water from our wells or municipal sources is safe and pure.  We also trust that our regulatory agencies are doing their most to protect us from pollution and spills into our water supply.

The truth is that we should be much more watchful and cautious in making sure our water supply is protected.

Case in point: There’s an ongoing environmental disaster involving the water supply of hundreds of thousands of residents in West Virginia that we in the Catskills should be paying very close attention to in terms of protecting our own H2O.

Earlier this month, over 7,500 gallons of a clear, licorice-smelling chemical used to process coal leaked from an old storage tank and spilled into the Elk River.  The accident took place near the largest water treatment plant in the state.

Life came to a halt there with the resulting prohibition on using tap water. Over 300,000 residents of West Virginia were ordered not to drink the tap water. That chemical, Crude MCHM, which is primarily composed of a chemical named 4-methylcyclohexane methanol is very toxic, and there were immediate reports of rashes, stomach aches, and other ailments.

After 10 days, restrictions on using tap water were lifted for most of those affected by the disaster, even though the licorice smell remained. Pregnant women are still being advised not to drink the water, while Governor Earl Ray Tomblin emphasized that tests indicated the water is safe under guidelines set by the US Centers for Disease Control, he also told a press conference he was not aware of a recommendation for home owners to flush their pipes until the smell is not present.

He was not too reassuring when he told residents: “If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking in this water, then use bottled water…I’m not going to say absolutely, 100 percent that everything is safe. But what I can say is if you do not feel comfortable, don’t use it.”

Now as West Virginia officials, who are no strangers to environmental spills and lax regulation, scurry to deal with the health disaster, serious questions are being raised as to why there’s so little regulation of the storage of these chemicals-and even worse, why there’s so little knowledge by the Federal government and the medical field about the potential toxicity of chemicals like the one spilled into the Elk River.

What stands out the most from the WV spill is how the Federal and state governments throughout the nation fail to monitor chemicals and their use in terms of protecting our water supplies.

A recent article in the Washington Post’s Health and Science section stated that “It has been 38 years since Congress passed a major piece of legislation regulating toxic chemicals, even though there is no disagreement that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA, or Tosca) needs an overhaul” and that “”Chemicals in the United States are generally treated as innocent until proven guilty. A company does not have to prove that a chemical does not pose a health hazard in order to introduce it in the commercial market.”

Much like West Virginia, our state is way too lax in regulating chemicals. 

Here in New York State, the controversy surrounding Fracking already highlights the dangerous nature of chemicals used and released in the fracking process, particularly to the water supply, and serves as a reminder of how lax the regulation of chemicals are in our own backyard.  In fact, several of the chemicals identified in the West Virginia spill are manufactured for fracking operations.

In a report issued by Environmental Advocates in May, 2012, a dire warning was issued about the lack of regulation of the oil and drilling process and the flawed exemption of chemicals from being deemed hazardous waste:

“Existing state laws and regulations do not require oil and gas companies to report with any specificity how much waste is being created, its chemical components, or how drilling waste is being disposed. We also discovered that much of fracking’s waste would likely be classified as hazardous waste if it were not exempt under flawed state regulations.”

The lessons of the recent chemical spill in West Virginia need to be learned well, and implemented quickly, here in upstate New York.

It’s just not about potential fracking here in the Catskills, but about a broader, rudimentary need to protect our water supply from chemicals on a day-to-day basis.

Right now, our water supply is woefully underregulated in terms of chemical storage and transportation, and with the boom going on right now in transmission pipes servicing the needs of the oil and gas industries in neighboring states, updated studies and regulations should be mandated immediately.

The time to take action is now, at both the local and state levels of government, before it is too late.  To find out what you can do to help, email us or visit Catskill Mountainkeeper today.

We need your comments on the State Energy Plan

NY State Energy Plan Needs to Rely Less on Fracked Gas and More on Renewables

In a move that bolsters the growing anti-fracking movement, New York City Mayor Bill de New York Mayor de Blasio delivers remarks at the plenary session of the U.S. Conference of MayorsBlasio made headlines last week when he spoke out against fracking: “The science simply isn’t reliable enough. The technology isn’t reliable enough. And there’s too much danger to our water supply, to our environment in general.”

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we don’t want a New York State Energy Plan that relies more heavily on fracked gas.  Whether natural gas is coming from New York State or neighboring Pennsylvania, it still contributes to climate change and perpetuates the mining and burning of dirty fossil fuels long into the future. Instead of increasing our reliance on natural gas, we should be planning for greater investment in clean, renewable energies such as solar, wind and geothermal. Join us in asking for a safer, cleaner energy future by commenting on the plan today.

We applaud the Governor’s new initiatives on renewable energy and clean technology that are outlined in the plan, including a ten-year statewide solar program that will increase solar power generation ten-fold, and a program to put solar panels on our schools.

But what else is outlined in the plan?  We looked at the 600-page document and found that it relies heavily on burning natural gas and promotes a massive build-out of natural gas infrastructure (an expanded network of pipelines, compressor stations and storage facilities across New York State).

We also found omissions and inconsistencies that will harm New Yorkers.  For instance, the plan projects a 50% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030.  This goal is based on an increase of natural gas use. The calculation outlined to measure emissions is limited to carbon dioxide only, and completely ignores the measurement of methane. Methane is the major component of natural gas, and has been proven to leak throughout the drilling and delivery processes.

Energy PlanThe plan asks for having an 80% reduction in overall green house gas emissions by 2050, which is a laudable goal. But we cannot base our calculations to get there by ignoring the impacts of natural gas infrastructure, and the increased methane emissions that would come with it.
  We need to demand an energy plan that considers the impacts of all climate-changing emissions, including methane.

“The overall energy policy outlined in the plan guarantees the perpetuation of dirty fossil fuels,” says Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper Program Director, “If gas companies spend billions on a new natural gas infrastructure they will want to see a return on this investment, which would tie us to natural gas for many, many years.”

The public review process of the draft Energy Plan is now underway.  The public has only been given 60 days to comment on the 600-page document, and although there are supposed to be 6 public hearings in Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island, none have been scheduled to date.  Originally the statute that governs energy policy stated that the public would have 6 months to review this critical plan, but delays in the release of the document have shut out sufficient public comment.  This is unacceptable.

What we decide today will shape the energy future of New York.  Please join us in two important actions:

  1. Click here to sign a letter to John B. Rhodes, the Chairman of the New York State Energy State Planning Board, requesting that the comment period be extended from 2 to 6 months.
  2. Click here to comment on the energy plan.  Please tell the Governor:
  • Instead of growing our dependence on natural gas, we should be weaning off of it.
  • Methane emissions must be measured to more accurately predict how much green house gas we’re sending into the atmosphere.
  • Instead of building a massive gas infrastructure, we should be building an infrastructure for clean, renewable energy.

Mountainkeeper Making News

In Philadelphia, the groups Protecting Our Waters, Clean Air Council, Philadelphia Interfaith Power and Light, the CatskillMountainkeeper, and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy called for halting trains shipments of fracked oil and gas. “This derailment …Pittsburgh Post-Gazette · ByJon Schmitz · 1/22/2014
Philadelphia, PA – Outrage is building among residents … Yesterday’s derailment put the Schuylkill River at risk as toxic Bakken shale oil, known to contain carcinogenic benzene and deadly hydrogen sulfide at high levels, dangles over …Akron Beacon Journal · ByBob Downing · 1/21/2014
Youngsville, NY: “Debra Winger and Mark Ruffalo have been integral to our fight against fracking, and the anti-fracking celeb list is gaining momentum in large part because of them,” says Ramsay Adams, Founder …Lawyers and Settlements · ByJane Mundy · 1/17/2014
But a series of tourism-themed displays prevented that from happening this year. Wes Gillingham, program director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, said the large showing represents the strength of fracking opponents.blogs.democratandchronicle.com · ByJon Campbell · 1/10/2014
Among the critics of hydraulic fracturing participating are New Yorkers Against Fracking, Citizen Action of New York, the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Catskill Mountainkeeper, among many others, according to a press release. “As science shows that …statepolitics.lohudblogs.com · ByJon Campbell · 1/3/2014
But more potential health risks are lacking scrutiny as well. Wes Gillingham, program director for Catskill Mountainkeeper calls the current fracking halt in the state “precarious.” “We don’t know what Public Health Commissioner Shah is studying or …AlterNet · 12/17/2013
To introduce Woodstock residents to the current options and answer questions about making the switch from conventional electricity providers to a Green Energy Supplier, or Green ESCO, as it is called, Catskill …woodstockx.com · 12/14/2013
Two years ago, Catskill Mountainkeeper and our allies rallied activists across four states to put pressure on the DRBC to cancel a high-stakes meeting in Trenton, NJ. In this meeting, members of the DRBC were expected to adopt fatally flawed regulations …Fly Rod & Reel · 11/15/2013
This past weekend, NRDC and our friends from Catskill Mountainkeeper and NYPIRG brought students from SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Binghamton to witness firsthand the devastation that fracking has caused in …switchboard.nrdc.org · 11/12/2013
Opponents of casinos, which include conservative think tanks and Catskill Mountainkeeper, have questioned their economic impact. Casinos, they say, amount to a regressive tax on the less-fortunate and gambling addicts. Along with the casino amendment …WGRZ TV · 11/6/2013

Happy New Year – Make 2014 a year for a “cleaner” home

Here’s An Easy New Year’s Resolution for 2014:

by Ramsay Adams, Executive Director
2014 has arrived and many of us once again face the traditional dilemma of trying to come up with a New Year’s Resolution that can really be a true life changer, and one that we can truly keep after a few days.
It’s simple: In 2014, let’s properly “clean up” our act in our homes by taking some simple steps to help reduce energy consumption and harm to the environment.
From the moment we wake until we go to sleep every day, all of us use energy and common manufactured products that negatively impact the environment.
The EPA suggests that one of the major sources of ground water contamination can be our household and business septic systems and the improper disposal of hazardous wastes found in  household products like disinfectants and even the prescribed drugs we take.
The first step would be to gather up all those common, commercial household cleansers, detergents, and disinfectants that contain unfriendly contaminants and pollutants and replace their use with environmentally friendly substances like vinegar, baking soda, and yes, some cheap 100 proof vodka too!  These products work just as well, if not better, than their toxic counterparts, and both the environment and your wallet will thank you for making the switch.
For instance, instead of unclogging a drain with a harsh, and often expensive, chemical substance, you can simply use a combination of environmentally friendly baking soda (half a cup), vinegar (one cup), and a kettleful of boiling water. Click here for instructions.
Vinegar is great to use instead of chemical based sprays and liquids to clean windows and mirrors, as a glass spot remover either in a dishwasher or by hand, in removing stains from coffee makers and teapots, and in polishing copper (by dipping pots in boiling white vinegar).  For cleaning porcelain sinks, tubs and tile, borax or baking soda can be used instead of chemical based kitchen and bathroom cleaners.  To wipe faucets and shiny metals clean, you can use cheap, 100-proof vodka (no shot glass needed).
Another important change to make is how you dispose of unused or old prescription drugs.  Some of these drugs enter our lakes, streams and rivers unaltered if they are flushed into household septic tanks-and they remain intact even though they may pass through wastewater treatment.  The NYSDEC provides a checklist of simple options to properly dispose of household pharmaceutical drugs.
Do you wash your hands in hot water every day?  Well (no pun intended), a recent study by Vanderbilt University found that washing your hands in colder water has the same hygienic benefits as hot and reduces energy costs and consumption. The study stated that if all Americans did so (Americans wash their hands eight billion times each year) it would save a whopping 6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, equivalent to using over 650 million gallons of gasoline to power our vehicles!

As American citizens we must also reflect on our energy use as a society.  America has 5% of the world’s population but uses about 25% of of the energy consumed worldwide. Think about this the next time you are about to buy something.  We should make every effort to reduce our consumption for the sake of the Catskills and our neighbors around the globe.

Here’s a list of some other simple environmentally sound steps to take in 2014 (which will also save you money!): 
  • When you need to replace your lightbulbs, use CFLs or LEDs.
  • Replace a broken appliance with an energy efficient model (look for the “energy star” label).
  • Stop using disposable bags and buy some reusable bags.
  • Buy an inexpensive reusable water bottle, and stop buying plastic disposable bottles.
  • Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot.
  • Turn off lights when you leave the room.
  • Don’t turn on lights at all for as long as you can-open your curtains and enjoy natural light.
  • Turn off your computer completely at night.
  • Pay your bills online. Not only is it greener, it’s a sanity saver.
  • Fix leaky faucets.
  • Line dry your laundry.
  • Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.
  • Unplug unused chargers and appliances.
  • Collect rainwater, and use it to water your houseplants and garden.
With a minimum of effort, this New Year’s resolution will be a life changer – benefiting  you, your home, your community and the environment.
Happy and Healthy New Year from the staff of Catskill Mountainkeeper!

Help us Protect the Catskills!

 

As 2013 draws to a close, please consider a tax deductible donation to Catskill Mountainkeeper.  Every gift, large or small, enables us to continue our important work in the region and New York State.   As a Mountainkeeper supporter, I thought you’d like to learn about our many accomplishments this year in our 2013 Report to Stakeholders.  As you will see, we had a very busy year, and we have even more ambitious plans mapped out for the year ahead.We can’t accomplish this without you!  We know you care as deeply about protecting the Catskill region as we do, and we need your help to support our work.  If you already donated this year, thank you!  And if not, please donate today.I wish you all the best for a healthy, joyous and frack-free New Year!

Best regards,
Ramsay Adams

P.S.  To show our thanks, if you donate $20 or more before the end of the year, you will be entered into a raffle for a $50 gift certificate to a farm-to-table restaurant in your community. Seven winners will be chosen, one for each county in the Catskills! (see participating restaurants, below)    

 There will be seven lucky winners from across the Catskill region to the following restaurants:

Sullivan: The Heron, Narrowsburg, NY
Ulster: Oriole 9, Woodstock, NY
Delaware: Table on Ten, Bloomville, NY
Otsego: Origins Cafe, Cooperstown, NY
Albany: From the Garden, Albany, NY
Schoharie: Bees Knees Cafe, Preston Hollow, NY
Greene: Amy’s Takeaway Cafe, Lanesville, NY
Thank you to all of the local businesses who donated in support of this cause!

Where are we in the fight against fracking?

THE STATE OF FRACKING IN NEW YORK 

Through the joint advocacy of Catskill Mountainkeeper and our many partners, we have made it through another year without New York being “fracked.”  We are proud of our role in keeping fracking out of New York, yet much remains to be done, including a permanent ban on fracking.

That is the message we need to carry in huge numbers to Governor Cuomo in Albany on January 8th, 2014 (see details below). Pressure from the powerful gas lobby makes a permanent ban of fracking in New York an extremely difficult goal, yet achieving it is surpassingly important.

In addition to keeping fracking out of New York, we need to address the massive gas infrastructure that is planned and already being built to bring natural gas from other states to market. New pipelines and compressor stations mean that people across New York State will be exposed to the toxic air pollution that is a byproduct of moving the gas.  There are currently over 50 proposed or approved gas infrastructure projects across the State, including several in New York City and its suburbs.  New Yorkers should not be put in danger so that gas companies can reap higher profits in overseas markets.

In a recent incident, a family living near the new Hancock Compressor Station, being constructed by the Millennium Pipeline Company, had to evacuate their home while the company vented natural gas into the atmosphere.  Not only is building this extensive gas infrastructure wrong because it exposes New Yorkers to health and environmental dangers, but investing in a natural gas infrastructure that will take decades to pay back impedes our ability to develop the infrastructure to deliver clean, renewable energy.

The scientific evidence of just how dangerous fracking is to our health keeps mounting.

A report released last week by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities said that heavily fracked Allegheny County is in the top 2 percent in the United States for cancer risk from air pollution, and in hot spots within Allegheny County, the cancer risk is up to 20 times higher.  The report determined with certainty that Allegheny County’s air toxics problem presents a serious threat to people, as well as the environment.

A new University of Missouri study, “Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region” confirmed evidence that Catskill Mountainkeeper has been communicating for years – that chemicals commonly used in fracking for oil and natural gas are endocrine disruptors which have been linked by other research to cancer, birth defects and infertility.

For several years, Catskill Mountainkeeper has been pushing hard for New York State to conduct a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment, but so far the Department of Health (DOH) is only doing an internal health review.  Almost 15 months after the review was started, Governor Cuomo reports he has no timeline for the report’s release. When asked about the report recently, Dr. Nirav R. Shah, the DOH commissioner said that he is still conducting his review, using only the same studies that are available to everyone; nonetheless, he promises to reflect fully the evolving science in his recommendations.  We need to continue our calls for a more comprehensive and open process in order to insure that he fulfills his promise.

Meanwhile, communities across New York State and the Northeast continue to take action at the local and regional level to protect themselves from fracking. Recently, the Erie County Legislature banned high volume hydraulic fracturing on county land and imports of any drilling waste to its water treatment facilities. Earlier this month, some of our youngest Mountainkeepers addressed the Delaware River Basin Commission  (DRBC) to show appreciation for their ongoing moratorium on shale gas extraction and also helped to present an album with hundreds of pictures from around the Delaware Watershed.  Two years ago, pressure from Mountainkeeper and coalition partners influenced the DRBC to adopt the moratorium and delay the adoption of regulations, and we are working to make sure that this moratorium stays in force through 2014 and beyond.

Catskill Mountainkeeper continues to stand in solidarity with our neighbors in Pennsylvania who are living with fracking’s toxic legacy.  Water wells for three families in Franklin Forks, PA tested positive for high levels of methane, salt and metals after fracking started nearby, but an initial investigation by the PA Department of Environmental Protection did not find a link between the contamination and fracking.  WPX ENERGY INC., which had installed water tanks for the families, was going to pull them out, but faced with growing protests from community members, amplified by Catskill Mountainkeeper and our allies, the state is reopening the investigation and, for now, WPX Energy Inc. has halted plans to take back the water tanks.

2014 will be a critical year in our fight to keep fracking out of New York. We all need to ramp up our efforts to continue the de facto moratorium in New York and work for a complete ban.

The first major action of 2014 is a rally and protest in Albany on January 8
th at Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address.

Please join us from 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM in the hallways of the Concourse in the Empire State Plaza (South Mall Arterial, Albany, NY 12242). The more people who show up the stronger our case.

Stand with us on January 8th, 2014, to tell Governor Cuomo fracking should be banned in New York because:

  • Drilling and fracking present a clear and immediate danger to the health of New Yorkers
  • The threats to our aquifers, our air, our rivers and our health make shale development not worth the risk.
  • The release of methane, a main component of natural gas, is 25 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, undermines efforts to combat climate change
  • We don’t want our communities industrialized
  • The so-called shale boom threatens to maintain our addiction to fossil fuels and to derail a serious shift to renewables.

We hope to see you in Albany on January 8th, calling for a frack-free future for all of us in 2014.