Long Islanders joined a wave of anti-fracking protests across New York State amid increasing efforts from environmentalists urging a ban the controversial natural gas drilling practice.
Local environmental activists rallied at Port Washington Town Dock on Main Street on Thursday during an event timed to coincide with similar rallies in Manhattan, Buffalo and Albany, where petitions were given to state leaders.
They are calling on state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, to enact a ban on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, in gas-rich upstate regions.
“We need Senator Martins to be a hero on this,” Sam Bernhardt, Long Island organizer for Food & Water Watch, said last week during an anti-fracking forum at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Shelter Rock in Manhasset.
Martins recently co-sponsored legislation to extend a moratorium on fracking while the state continues to study regulations that could open upstate up to the gas industry. Environmentalists warn that the chemicals pumped into the ground during the fracking process would have far-reaching negative effects.
“Lets not fall for the false choice between jobs and a clean, health environment,” Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said at the anti-fracking forum.
Joe Rizza, a spokesman for Martins, said the senator is opposed to fracking but is reluctant to ban it outright, in case more environmentally sound methods are developed later.
“To insinuate that the senator has not gone far enough is ridiculous,” he said, noting that his co-sponsoring the bill to extend the fracking moratorium was not a result of pressure from environmentalists.
Cuomo has remained mum on the issue. A Skelos spokesman did not return a call for comment.
Nassau and Suffolk counties recently passed laws that ban Long Island sewage treatment plants from accepting fracking wastewater for fear of its potential impact on local waterways those plants empty out into.
What to do with fracking wastewater is among the myriad details state officials are considering while the moratorium is in effect.