New Yorkers Protest Fracking, Demand Environmental Safety

by , 04/17/11
filed under: Energy,Health,News,Politics

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Environmental groups from all across New York State came together in Albany earlier this week for a ‘Fracking Day of Action.’ Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, which is a process by which high volumes of natural gas can be recovered. By injecting chemically treated water into a gas well at high pressures, the shale cracks and the trapped natural gas can be recovered. A study recently found that fracking causes more environmental problems than coal. Fracking has been hotly debated, especially in New York City, which gets most of its drinking water from a reservoir near the Catskills where drilling could take place. Inhabitat was on the scene to talk with opponents and get the latest information.

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The folks who gathered at the capital were trying to warn lawmakers of the hazards associated with this practice as they make decisions concerning the Marcellus Shale region, which includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.  While the industry claims safety, the public fears contamination of the water supply, the likes of which has been seen with devastating effects in Pennsylvania. New York has been cautious in its approach to fracking, imposing a moratorium last summer. Democrats are pushing for an extension until more environmental tests can be completed.

The Department of Environmental Conservation — or Contamination, as one woman’s sign read at the rally — is reviewing the practice before Governor Andrew Cuomo gives the go-ahead to the oil companies. The industry is pushing to expedite the review while the environmental movement urges everyone to take a step back and really look at the facts, because as another rally-attendee’s sign pointed out, “we can’t drink money.”

Natalie Brant gave a heart-wrenching speech at the rally, sharing the story of her eight children and the troubles they face because of what comes out of their tap. She held up yellow water, announced that it came from her faucet, and blamed the liquid for the laundry list of health concerns her and her children are facing. Not-so-coincidentally, an energy company fracked very close to her home.

The disastrous byproduct of fracking is polluted water, and we’re seeing the hardships citizens in Pennsylvania and all across the nation are facing because they’re losing their access to clean tap water (ever heard of a little documentary called Gasland?). Obviously, environmental activists taking on the oil and gas industry is not a new story, but we hope this time NY legislators will seriously consider the health of the citizens before making any decisions about hydraulic fracturing. It’s encouraging that unlike most other states, New York has taken a “regulate first, drill later” approach, but for many lawmakers and communities upstate, the prospect of economic development has eclipsed environmental concerns.