Environmental advocates, several civic groups and more than two dozen concerned citizens held a rally in Manhasset on Thursday to plead to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to keep shale drilling companies away from New York State and to ban high-volume hydraulic fracking.
Fracking, the controversial drilling technique that uses high-pressure water, chemicals and sand to crack shale and release natural gas, has quickly become one of the most contentious environmental issues in recent years because of concerns over pollution, spills and contamination of drinking water. Supporters argue that if done safely, fracking can lead to an economic boost in rural areas of Upstate New York struggling since the economic downturn. Many drilling companies have their eyes set on Marcellus Shale, rock that extends deep underground through parts of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
While landowners are being promised a quick buck by giant corporations hoping to acquire natural gas from deep underground, environmental advocates argue that potential negative environmental factors outweigh the potential boon to a depressed economy.
“Aside from fracking increasing the air pollution that will flow over to Long Island, and…effecting the drinking water of millions of New Yorkers…we know that anytime the water supply of millions of New Yorkers is effected it’ll effect everyone,” said Sam Bernhardt, 24, the Long Island Organizer for Food and Water Watch.
Advocates and several local politicians held signs declaring “Ban Fracking Now,” “No Fracking Way” and waved blue and red signs in the air that came with an early warning shot to the current occupier of the governor’s office: “Governor Cuomo: In 2014 we’ll remember. NO FRACKING.”
Ralph Vassallo, 60, of Queens, came out to protest because he has serious concerns about what can happen to drinking water if fracking is allowed.
“I feel strongly against this fracking that there’s a big possiblty of it contaminating New York’s water supply,” said Vassall, wearing a “Ban Fracking Now” sticker on his chest. “I also feel that if Governor Cuomo doesn’t act on this—I feel like he’s doing a lot of great things with the middle class—but he won’t be remembered for that if he looks the other way, and if he signs off on this we’ll be in big trouble because its catastrophic. We’re talking about the New York water supply.”
The state has had a moratorium on fracking pending a study by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC held several public hearings with an “unprecedented turnout.” More than 6,000 citizens came out to the hearings, and the agency has received more than 15,000 comments on the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), which was issued in 2009.
Patricia Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, told the group of people rallying to continue the fight against fracking because “threats to our air, our water and a clean water supply are really worth fighting for.”
Wood also started the website amillionfrackingletters.com, providing the public with an outlet to send Cuomo letters imploring him to prohibit fracking. The website has received 300 to 400 letters an hour, said Wood, but she still believes more people would get involved if hydraulic fracking was a simpler issue for people to understand.
“One of the problems with hydrofracking is that its such a complicated thing to explain,” she said.
But she added that people may be “compelled” to do something if the problem hits a little closer to home.
“All we need is a single quart of milk with detectable radioactive elements in it and you can destroy the dairy industry in New York,” Wood warned.