Launched by New Yorkers Against Fracking – Mountainkeeper

Gas drilling and fracking operations pose a serious threat to public health, with over a thousand reported cases of water contamination, sickness, and air contamination in other parts of the country where fracking is already happening. Our neighbors in Pennsylvania living in areas with fracking report health issues ranging from nausea, body rashes, nosebleeds, hair loss, asthma, birth defects, neurological and cognitive impairment and different types of cancer. Right now, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is deciding whether to lift the state’s de facto moratorium on fracking or to allow the time for critical data to be developed from outside health studies before making a decision.

In February, the governor’s own health commissioner, Dr. Shah, raised health concerns and pointed to three outside health studies currently underway that are “the first comprehensive studies of high-volume hydraulic fracturing health impacts at either the state or the federal level.” These studies could provide crucial data necessary to make an informed decision, particularly given major gaps in scientific knowledge about pathways of exposure and contamination from fracking. That’s why hundreds of New York’s medical and scientific experts are united in calling on Governor Cuomo to allow the three health studies his own health commissioner has cited to conclude, and to conduct a New York-specific health impact assessment that is transparent and includes public comments and hearings before making a decision. Those experts include internationally acclaimed scientists, medical professionals and long-standing health organizations like the American Lung Association of NY and the American Academy of Pediatrics NY.

Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo recently said, “Nobody ever said we were waiting for the studies to be finished,” before making a decision on fracking. This flies in the face of the Governor’s promise to do the “most comprehensive health review ever done” on fracking before making any decisions. As the state’s own health commissioner Dr. Shah says, “the time to ensure the impacts on public health are considered is before a state permits drilling.” The health of New Yorkers is too important and must not be jeopardized by making a decision before the facts are determined.

Call Governor Cuomo today to tell him that New Yorkers deserve nothing less than all of the facts and science before a decision is made. Our health and our future depend on it.


Beacon Climate Action – Big Water NY – Center for Biological Diversity – Concerned Citizens of Rural Broome – Democracy for New York City – Environment and Human Rights Advisory – Frack Free Catskills – Gas Free Seneca – Powr – Reach Out America – Responsible Associated Landowners of NYS – Vestal Residents for Safe Energy – West 80s Neighborhood Association – Western NY Drilling Defense

Breaking News: New statewide poll finds ‘clear margin’ against fracking

Quinnipiac Poll Confirms that New Yorkers Don’t Want Fracking

The Quinnipiac University poll released today shows statewide opposition to fracking is growing. The new poll finds opponents outnumbering supporters of fracking in the survey by 46-39 percent — a new low for fracking proponents and the first time a “clear margin” has opposed it in Quinnipiac polling.

Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute stated that voters are “turning negative on the basic idea…”  of fracking.

According to Ramsay Adams, Mountainkeeper Executive Director, “The more that New Yorkers learn about fracking, the more they oppose it.  The oil and gas industry is waging a massive, glitzy, smooth talking campaign to convince New Yorkers that they can get fracked and like it.  New Yorkers aren’t buying it.”


Across the country, there has been a rising tide of citizen opposition to extreme energy extraction.  From strip-mining for coal, to hydrofracking for natural gas, to the tar sands; more and more people are rising up to confront the devastating effects of extreme energy extraction on their communities – and people are increasingly seeing all of these struggles as interconnected – and ultimately  about climate change. This is why people from all walks of life are stepping up and going to hearings, taking days off from work to be at rallies and in some cases making the personal choice of civil disobedience to stand up for what is right.  Below is a story about one of these struggles.

12 Arrested Blockading Controversial Fracking Infrastructure

(Reprinted with Permission from our allies at Green Umbrella)

Sandra Steingraber PhD., biologist, author and Trumansburg, NY resident, was arrested alongside residents of Seneca Lake and local college students to oppose Kansas City, MO based Inergy, natural gas and liquid petroleum gas storage facility, which would lock in natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region. Protesters have linked arms and deployed a banner reading “Our Future is Unfractured, We Are Greater Than Dirty Inergy” across the entrance to the facility on NY State Route 14.
The blockade precedes a 250+ person rally opposing the Inergy facility scheduled to begin at the Watkins Glen Village Marina at 5 p.m. today.  Twenty-five demonstrators blockaded the Inergy facility, which they say is one example of numerous fracking infrastructure projects that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have allowed to “slip in the back door” while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo debates allowing the controversial and extreme process of horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

Steingraber, who lives in neighboring Tompkins County said, “It is wrong to bury explosive, toxic petroleum gases in underground chambers next to a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. It is wrong to build out the infrastructure for fracking at a time of climate emergency. It is right for me come to the shores of Seneca Lake, where my 11-year-old son was born, and say, with my voice and with my body, as a mother and biologist, that this facility is a threat to life and health.”

The blockade joins a growing national movement to call attention to environmental injustices caused by unconventional and extreme fossil fuel extraction techniques, including Inergy’s hotly debated salt cavern gas storage facility proposed for Reading, NY. Dennis Fox, a Cornell University Sophomore said, “This isn’t just a local issue—when students stand shoulder to shoulder with communities on the frontlines of the fight against extreme projects like Inergy’s, we’re one step closer to stopping fracking, and one step closer to protecting my generation’s future from poisoned water and devastating climate change.”

Inergy’s facility has generated widespread concerns for its proximity to Seneca Lake, New York State’s largest fresh water body and the source of drinking water for 100,000 people. Michael Dineen, a resident of Seneca County, which contains a portion of Seneca Lake, said, “The priorities of Inergy’s project are all wrong. Drinking water and people’s health are more valuable than gas. The Finger Lakes region holds one of the largest pool of fresh water in the United States and needs our protection—we don’t need to lock in investments in dirty fracking infrastructure that will deepen our dependence on an inherently contaminating industry.”

Melisa Chipman, a resident of Schuyler County, where the facility is located said, “Not only do salt cavern gas storage facilities like Inergy’s have a very high probability of ‘catastrophic equipment failure,’ but I do not want more truck traffic polluting our air, destroying our roads, and scaring tourists away.” The DEC has received increasingly vocal criticism from local wineries and tourist businesses for refusing to conduct a comprehensive review of the potential environmental and economic impacts of Inergy’s plans to expand gas storage capacity of the current facility from 1.5 to 10.0 billion cubic feet.


Mark Ruffalo’s Game-Changing Plan For A Renewable Energy Future in New York

The Real Plan For a Renewable Energy Future For New York

Activist, actor and Catskill Mountainkeeper board member Mark Ruffalo has spearheaded the effort to create a real plan for a renewable energy future for New York State.  He, along with Academy Award nominated filmmaker, Josh Fox, put together a team of researchers headed by Stanford University Professor Mark Z. Jacobson (and 2012 Mountainkeeper Barnfest keynote speaker) to tackle the challenge.  The result is the groundbreaking report released today, entitled “Examining the Feasibility of Converting New York State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water and Sunlight“.

Jacobson co-authored the report with Cornell University Professor of Engineering, Anthony Ingraffea, Cornell Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Robert W. Howarth, and University of California at Davis scientist Mark Delucchi, among others. Their findings are published in the journal Energy Policy.

The 64 page report crunches the numbers needed for wind, water and sunlight (WWS) to meet New York’s power needs by 2030 and shows us that the technology exists now to implement the plan and that it is economically viable to do so.  The real question is whether our state leaders have the political wherewithal to make this happen.  According to the study, if New York switched to WWS, air pollution–related deaths would decline by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about $33 billion – 3 percent of the state’s gross domestic product – in related health costs every year. That savings alone would pay for the new power infrastructure needed within about 17 years, or about 10 years if annual electricity sales are accounted for. The study also estimates that resultant emissions decreases would reduce 2050 U.S. climate change costs – such as coastal erosion and extreme weather damage – by about $3.2 billion per year.

Currently, almost all of New York’s energy comes from imported oil, coal and gas. Under the plan that Jacobson and his fellow researchers advance, 40 percent of the state’s energy would come from local wind power, 38 percent from local solar and the remainder from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave energy.

Journalist Stacy Clark wrote an extensive article featured in today’s Huffington Post about how Mark and Josh made this happen and what the implications of the study are:


Meet and Greet

“Just over two years ago, on the southeast side of San Francisco, near the 101 freeway, RaboBank’s Executive VP, Marco Krapels, who manages its Capital Markets and Renewable Energy Finance Division, hosted a star-studded soirée at which he introduced the actor-activist Mark Ruffalo, Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox and Jacobson to renewable energy investors, social media influencers and well-connected environmental leaders. Many on the guest list were already aware of Ruffalo’s efforts to ban natural gas fracking in New York state and Fox’s work to expose the toxic hazards of natural gas-drilling. Guests had also come to learn of Jacobson’s Scientific American article — published a year earlier — which proposed that “a large-scale wind, water and solar energy system can reliably supply the world’s needs.” In that paper, Jacobson added, “the obstacles [to clean energy] are primarily political, not technical.” Many attending guests had watched Jacobson’s February, 2010 TED Talks debate performance, where he presented a compelling case in favor of a 100 percent renewable U.S. energy plan.

Attention quickly focused on the Stanford brainiac, who offered the audience a refreshingly objective examination of his work. “Mathematics can be used to estimate the likely outcome of a new idea,” Jacobson began. He explained that his team was busy researching U.S. energy usage from the point of exploration all the way through to the point of consumption. In doing so, they kept account of the “external” costs of each energy source. The respective costs and benefits of each technology became a mathematical profile of sorts and what they found was remarkable: “When you properly factor in the economic costs of natural gas and other fossil fuels — their burden on the environment, human health and the economy — the benefits of renewable electricity are not only indisputable, but they’re financially compelling.” Jacobson’s cocktail conversation made an impression as industry moguls and tech savvy pioneers exchanged attentive nods.

Ruffalo spoke of his family’s move to upstate New York and the unwelcome realization that the region’s groundwater was threatened by the industrial practice of fracturing bedrock to extract natural gas. He described the grassroots campaign that ensued to end the industrial operations and the ongoing battle to permanently ban the practice statewide (a two-year moratorium on natural gas fracking in New York was recently announced by the NY legislature and awaits Senate approval). As New York’s electricity is generated almost exclusively by coal and natural gas, alternative fuel sources would necessarily be required should New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ultimately decide to ban fracking operations permanently.”

Read the entire article here

Download the report here

Two Year Fracking Moratorium Introduced in both NYS Senate and Assembly

carlucci_savinoYesterday, I joined Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci at a press conference with other environmental leaders at the Capitol Building in Albany to announce that the Senate’s five-member Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) had unveiled legislation that would stop the clock on the State’s long consideration of the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as fracking.  A similar bill that calls for a two-year moratorium based on a comprehensive health impact assessment is expected to be approved by the Assembly as early as today.

The Independent Democratic Conference, which shares control of the Senate with Republicans, said this independent health review, known as the Geisinger study, and two other reviews on drinking water must be completed before Gov. Andrew Cuomo settles the five-year-old debate.

“We have to put science first. We have to put the health of New Yorkers first,” said IDC member Sen. David Carlucci.

“We cannot afford to make a mistake,” said Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island, another IDC member.

As reported in the Albany Times Union, DOH Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said last month that his agency’s review — conducted with the assistance of outside specialists — will be delayed as he seeks briefings from researchers currently examining fracking’s possible health effects in Pennsylvania.

The IDC’s legislation makes specific mention of the need to wait for the completion of the three studies referenced by Shah in his February letter to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens informing him of the delay. The three studies include a federal Environmental Protection Agency investigation of the potential effects on drinking water, a study by Geisinger Health Systems examining the medical histories of those living near gas facilities in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale region, and a recently announced study from University of Pennsylvania researchers in collaboration with Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Carolina.

The bill would block the DEC from finalizing the environmental impact statement for two years from the bill’s effective date “or until the Commissioner of Health determines that the completion of the studies deemed relevant … have produced data sufficient to make a recommendation to DEC” on the health safety of fracking.

All five members of the IDC, which has formed a power-sharing alliance with the Senate’s Republican conference, support the legislation.”  Read the entire Albany Times Union story

What Does This Mean?

Elected leaders from both sides of the aisle are putting strong pressure on Governor Cuomo to wait for the scientific studies that are already underway.  We hope that the Governor will heed the recommendations of our State’s representatives and allow his Health and Environment Commissioners the necessary time to make informed decisions based on proper review of the completed studies.

Ramsay Adams
Executive Director

Fracking Story in YES! Magazine Gives a Great Overview of the Movement and How We Got Here

A visit to Dimock

“Like most successful actors, Mark Ruffalo could plant his family anywhere, but he fell in love with Sullivan County’s trout-rich streams and hemlock forests; they reminded him of Wisconsin, where he grew up. At first Ruffalo was enthusiastic about the gas extraction rumors he heard in Callicoon. But that changed in June 2010 when he visited Dimock, Pa., just across the state border. He made that trip with environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr. at the invitation of Ramsay Adams, founder and executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, a regional conservation group.

Adams introduced Kennedy and Ruffalo to Dimock residents who felt conned and sickened. “We inspected contaminated wells and heard residents’ complaints of feeling abandoned by companies leasing their land and by their elected officials,” recalls Ruffalo of his Dimock trip. “In fact, they were looking to Kennedy and me to save them.” By the end of that visit, Ruffalo’s view of fracking had done a 180-degree turn. “I think what you’re doing is terrific,” Ruffalo told Adams. “Let me know how I can help.”


Breaking News: Huge Victory – Fracking Delayed in New York



In an incredible victory for Mountainkeeper and activists across New York State – Dr. Shah, the State Department of Health Commissioner sent a letter to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens stating:

“As we have been reviewing the scope of these studies, I have determined — and prudence dictates — that the DOH Public Health Review will require additional time to complete based on the complexity of the issues. My team and I will be in Pennsylvania and Washington in the coming days for first-hand briefings on these studies and their progress, which will assist in informing the New York review. I have also extended the term of the DOH outside expert researchers to continue to assist my review. I anticipate delivering the completed Public Health Review to you within a few weeks, along with my recommendations.”  Read the entire letter here

In response Commissioner Martens issued a press release stating:

“Commissioner Shah advised me today that the Public Health Review of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) of high-volume hydraulic fracturing is still on-going.  The Department of Health’s (DOH) Public Health Review, which was undertaken at my request, is important to our consideration of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and I will not issue a final SGEIS until that review is complete and I have received Dr. Shah’s recommendations.  He has indicated he expects his review to be complete in a few weeks after he has had an opportunity to review recent studies underway which are pertinent to the evaluation of high-volume hydraulic fracturing impacts on public health.”  Read the entire press release here

According to Dr. Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL Catskill Mountainkeeper’s High Peaks Regional Director:
“As Mountainkeeper has long recommended, Dr. Shah is wisely taking the time to come to a careful decision about what needs to happen to protect New York from the harmful effects of fracking.  We hope that his future plans include a call for a rigorous, comprehensive, open and participatory Health Impact Assessment that will define and quantify the full range of health hazards involved in the production and distribution of natural gas.”

Catskill Mountainkeeper commends the Governor, Commissioner Shah and Commissioner Martens on their decision to take the prudent approach to this very controversial issue by proceeding with the utmost caution.  We hope that the DOH and the DEC will continue to recognize the need for more in depth study of this dangerous practice.  We will keep you updated as we learn more.

Mountainkeeper and Allies Hold Health Rally Opposing Fracking

The day after DEC Commissioner implied the state could miss a regulatory deadline that could extend New York’s moratorium on fracking.  Anti-fracking activists are keeping the pressure on.

Joe Martens, DEC Commissioner, said the DEC won’t finalize fracking regulations without the state’s health review being complete.  If it isn’t complete in time for the February 13th deadline, a decision on fracking could be delayed for months.  Tuesday, the activists said the health concerns should keep Governor Cuomo from allowing one well to be fracked in the Southern Tier.

“Our waterways are interconnected in the ground, just as they are on the surface.  The industry can not keep it’s claim to keep toxic chemicals under ground and keep them in one place. They can’t do it,” said Dr. Kathleen Nolan of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

The activists criticized Cuomo for what they call a secret health review. But according to energy in depth, an industry-funded group, health stats from communities surrounding the Barnett Shale in Texas show rates of cancer, heart and respiratory disease decreased from 2000-2008, possibly due in part to revenue from drilling giving more people access to health care.
Picture 10


Chill, Baby, Chill: An Interview with Debra Winger

ChillBabyChillAmong the more than 1,500 anti-fracking advocates who descended upon the Capitol for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address was actress Debra Winger, a longtime Sullivan County resident. The three-time Academy Award nominee, who won critical acclaim for her roles in films like Terms of Endearment and Shadowlands, was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars before she pulled back from the limelight in the mid-’90s to write a memoir, teach at Harvard University and concentrate on her family. No stranger to politics, Winger, who famously dated Bob Kerrey for several years when he was governor of Nebraska, has long been a champion of progressive causes. City & State Editor Morgan Pehme pulled Winger aside in the Empire State Plaza to speak with her about hydrofracking.

Click here to continue reading the transcript. 

N.Y. legislators grill health chief on fracking review: The Journal News | 12/30/13

KathyNolan“Kathleen Nolan, a regional director for Catskill Mountainkeeper, a group opposed to hydrofracking, criticized the state for not doing more to assess the impacts of fracking.“Commissioner Shah’s admission that the DOH is not doing a health study, but merely a health review, is unconscionable,” she said Wednesday.”

ALBANY — New York Health Commissioner Nirav Shah broke his silence on the state’s review of the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, telling lawmakers Wednesday that he anticipates completing the analysis in “the next few weeks.”

In a legislative budget hearing on public health and Medicaid spending, state lawmakers pressed Shah for details on when the department’s findings would be public. Shah began his review in September at the request of the Department of Environmental Conservation, which itself has been reviewing the environmental effects of fracking since 2008. But little about the review has been revealed, and Shah previously declined to discuss it while the analysis was in progress.

Asked by Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, about the state of the review, Shah said, “The vast majority of the material for our review, the health review, is available on the Internet at the DEC website.”