A Brief from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper
On that date, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, his health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and an expert panel assembled by the state two years ago said no to any plans involving hydraulic fracturing – or what is more commonly called “fracking” for gas in deep layers of shale rock – across their state.
The decision to ban fracking in New York State also has important implications for residents in Ontario given that petro-chemical corporations were interested in using a wastewater plant in Niagara Falls, New York to dump treated chemical effluent from the fracking process to the Niagara River and Lake Ontario (sources of drinking water for millions of Ontario and New York residents), and that Ontario is still in the process of deciding whether fracking should be allowed in rural regions here.
A story on the front page of the December 18th edition of The Buffalo News quoted Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, summing up the decision this way; “The potential risks are too great,” he said. “They are not even fully known.”
Indeed, in U.S. states where fracking is permitted, there are heated debates over the potential environmental risks the practice is posing to underground water supplies that many rural residents, including farmers, depend on for drinking water for themselves as well as for livestock. Some residents living in areas where fracking is underway have reportedly said that the water coming out of their taps has a chemical taste to it and there is at least one documented incident of someone taking a match to their tap water and having it light on fire.
Of more concern are exemptions in U.S. laws, allowed during the Bush/Cheney administration, that allows petro-chemical companies the ability not to report to government what chemicals they inject into the ground as part of the fracking process. These exemptions are justified on the grounds that the chemical mixture flushed through subterranean layers of shale to free up gas is of a proprietary nature. They are dangerous to the public in the very real sense that if government environmental agencies don’t know what chemicals are being pumped in the ground, it is far harder to test for any concentrations of them in our drinking water or in fish and other aquatic life in our creeks, rivers and lakes.
So here we are and it is yet to be seen what the Ontario government of Kathleen Wynne will do with any pressure from petro-chemical corporations to engage in fracking on the Ontario side of the border. As weak as her Liberal premier predecessor Dalton McGuinty was on environmental issues, even he launched a study on fracking a few years back prior to any final decision on whether or not Ontario should allow the practice.
We continue to wait for the conclusions coming out of that Ontario study.
Finally, here is a note below that Niagara At Large received from Bill Nowak, a public activist in the Buffalo area on the governor’s decision.
At this incredibly happy moment, I want to congratulate Rita Yelda, Drilling Defense, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club, and so many others for their wonderful work in the face of the powerful fossil fuel industry. This is truly an incredible grass roots victory where millions of courageous individual sacrifices have added up to a momentous victory.
I also hope people take a moment to remember that it was Antoine Thompson who spearheaded the pushback against fracking within the NYS legislature as Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee!
It was Antoine Thompson who was the first NY legislator to drive to Dimock, PA, to talk with courageous residents there who continue to fight back against the destruction caused by fracking.
It was Antoine Thompson who filed 64 pages of comments criticizing the DEC’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement in December 2009, when approval of hydrofracking appeared to be sailing through state government.
It was Antoine Thompson who first brought “Gasland” film maker Josh Fox to Albany to speak and show the film to state legislators, as well as to Buffalo to spread awareness of the issue here.
It was Antoine Thompson who took a 2nd trip to Dimock, PA, and brought several fellow NY State Legislators with him to witness first-hand the destruction caused by fracking.
It was Antoine Thompson who helped lead the charge for a moratorium on hydrofracking in 2010 at the highest levels of NYS government, when many saw it as a political impossibility.
It was Antoine Thompson who withstood enormous pressure from fossil fuel interests and stood up for New York’s environment.
This is the same Antoine Thompson that our local media has taken every opportunity to villainize, and who lost the 2010 Senate election by about 500 votes.
He could have remained silent or passive on hydrofracking and saved himself of a bunch of trouble, but didn’t.
I am proud to consider Antoine Thompson a friend and congratulate him, as well as so many others, on this great day.
Btw – I called the Governor’s office to thank and congratulate him on this fantastic decision and hope you will too – 1-518-474-8390. They give you the option of leaving a message or talking with an aide.
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