Where are we in the fight against fracking?


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.

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