New Yorkers Want a Statewide Ban on Fracking and are Building a Movement

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 5.17.04 PMBy Corinne Rosen,
Williamsburg Resident, New York Organizer, Food & Water Watch

The people of New York have made themselves clear that fracking has no place in their state, and they’re building a movement that might just force the governor to ban it. While Governor Cuomo and his administration insist they are focused on making a decision based on the science, the fact is that the science is already available and it clearly shows fracking cannot be done safely.

Horizontal high volume hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is an extreme drilling technique used to extract natural gas. The studies that have been done show that fracking is a nightmare, because of water and air pollution, toxic spills, and ruined landscapes. The evidence is clear that fracking is extremely dangerous.

In September 2010 Riverkeeper released a report that presented environmental fracking case studies from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Colorado and Wyoming. This report documents well blowouts, surface water spills, ground water contamination, air pollution, permit violations and improper waste management.

In March 2011 a Cornell University Study reported that shale fracking could have a larger impact on climate change than coal over the full life cycle of the fossil fuels.

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 5.16.37 PMIn January 2010 an investigation of the chemical disclosure records of drilling corporations by the Environnmental Working Group found that some fracking fluids contained over 93 times more benzene than diesel, and that the amount of benzene from a single fracked well could contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of water.

In September 2010 scientists conducted a study accepted for publication in the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assesment that found 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer; 37 percent could disrupt the endocrine system; 40 to 50 percent could affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems; and more than 75 percent could affect the skin, eyes and respiratory system, resulting in skin and eye irritation or flu-like symptoms.

The science is clear: fracking is dangerous and not worth the risks involved.  New Yorkers get it. Just two years ago when I first joined the movement to ban fracking in New York, many state residents didn’t know what it was.  I would go out and speak to people about it and get a lot of blank stares. But that has changed.  Hundreds of dedicated community organizations that have been working to build awareness from Buffalo to the Hudson Valley through movie screenings, discussions, and community meetings have succeeded in building a strong ban movement throughout the state.  This movement of grassroots groups has combined to build New Yorkers Against Fracking, a growing statewide coalition with more than 200 members.

The diversity of the movement includes faith leaders, musicians, food professionals, local elected officials, farmers, and families.  The groundswell of activism in New York has been shocking, but more shocking has been the organized power that is being built.   Over a recent 30-day public comment period, which happened to fall over the Christmas, Hannukah, and New Years holidays, over 204,000 comments were submitted calling on Governor Cuomo to ban fracking.  During Cuomo’s 2013 Sate of the State speech, over 2,000 people from all over New York rallied at the Capitol to call for a ban on fracking.

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 5.16.52 PMAs of this March 53 municipal bans have been passed in New York, in addition to 106 local moratoriums on fracking.  These bans have been passed because people have taken it upon themselves to work together, educate their communities, organize their neighbors and follow through by holding town hall meetings, educating residents and organizing for change.  And this movement isn’t slowing down.

Governor Cuomo has a difficult decision to make on whether to stand with the people and the science or to be on the side of the oil and gas industry.  The science is clear that fracking is too dangerous for our state.  New Yorkers are clear too, that the only right decision is one that bans fracking, and they aren’t waiting for the governor to make that decision. They’re building a movement to ban fracking themselves.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping the global commons — our shared resources — under public control.  Food & Water Watch has an office in Brooklyn, NY.  For more information email or call 718-943-8064.