New York just became the first state with sizable shale gas reserves in the United States to ban fracking. In a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York cited health and safety reasons as influencing his decision to ban fracking – the much-debated process of extracting shale gas from deep within the earth. Many worry that the practice could contaminate air and water, posing “inestimable” health risks.
The decision was announced at a year-end cabinet meeting called by governor Cuomo in Albany, and it comes at a time when environmentalists have increased their calls to ban fracking. Acting commissioner of health, Howard Zucker said, “I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York.”
Just a few days ago outside Cuomo’s office, hundreds gathered to demonstrate their opposition to fracking. Retired Air Force MSgt Colleen Boland spoke, mentioning her dedication to the cause for clean air and water and connecting her service work to that of environmentalists. The rally was hosted by Citizen Action of New York, who’ve done a sizable amount of work on the struggle against fracking.
Still, though fracking is banned in New York, hundreds of protestors from all walks of life continue to risk arrest by protesting in creative ways at Senaca Lake, one of New York’s finger lakes (that houses drinking water for over 100,000 New Yorkers). Crestwood Midstream, a diversified energy and infrastructure distribution company from Houston, TX has merged with Inergy LP and acquired the underground salt caverns on Inergy’s US Salt 600-acre property on the west bank of Senaca Lake, two miles north of Watkins Glen. Crestwood is no stranger to gas storage – it already houses 80 billion cubic feet of shale gas in Texas, North Dakota’s Baaken Shale, and the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. The amount of gas that could be stored beneath Senaca Lake is “unprecedented” and will be the largest shale gas storage facility in the Northeast and one of the largest in the United States.
The dangers of these caverns include gas and brine leakage, explosions, catastrophic accidents, contaminated drinking water, impacts on the tourism and wine economy, the expansion of fracking, and climate change. If Governor Cuomo truly wants to demonstrate his dedication to the state of New York, he should rethink his approval of this storage facility and ban or at least plan to phase out all existing gas infrastructure in New York.
None of this dirty fossil fuel-related infrastructure is necessary – and with renewable energy markets on the rise, oil on the way out, and climate change on the forefront of peoples’ radars, we need to ban it all.
New York’s decision to ban fracking will set a precedent for the practice to be banned elsewhere – like in Pennsylvania, where fracking is truly running rampant causing truck accidents, spills, leaks, pipeline explosions, compressor station blowouts, and more. Hopefully Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf heeds the call of Cuomo and seriously rethinks the expansion of fracking that he and his department have planned for Pennsylvania.
Thank you, Governor Cuomo for demonstrating your support for a livable climate, clear air, and clean water. Now we need to ban fracking everywhere else – at least we’re our way.
Photos via shuttershock