New York State Governor Bans Fracking In His State – Now What Will Ontario Do?

A Brief from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper

Environmentalists on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border have not won many battles in recent years, but this December 17th, 2014 they won a big one.nyfracking2

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.

(Niagara At Large invites you to join in the conversation by sharing your views on the content of this post below. For reasons of transparency and promoting civil dialogue, NAL only posts comments from individuals who share their first and last name with their views.)


7 responses to “New York State Governor Bans Fracking In His State – Now What Will Ontario Do?

  1. Of most concern is the exemptions in U.S. laws, allowed during the Bush/Cheney administration, that grant petro-chemical companies the ability not to report to government what chemicals they inject into the ground as part of the fracking process.
    A few years ago the EPA requested a meeting between all companies engaged in Fracking and the purpose of this meeting was to standardize the chemical Cocktails used in Fracking….Cheney, when Vice President, exempted Halliburton from ever having to attend these meetings or obey the rulings of the EPA….SO MUCH FOR ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRITY and as for Canada, it is totally controled by the petro chemical industry via Harper.


  2. I’m quite concerned about the quality of our ground & drinking water – I lived at Pinecrest Point near Gasline on Lake Erie for ~20 years and our well water smelled of sulphur compounds. Gasline had one of the first natural gas lines piping to homes ~1890 and the area is still cross-crossed with both private & corporate gas wells & lines serving rural homes.

    In fact, the gas in those wells was consumed long ago & the shale rock formations are refilled every summer with Alberta gas that was mined by … fracking.

    Since I don’t want to be a hypocrite about opposing fracking, I am installing a hybrid solar/wind electric system to add to my Solarwall hot air furnace.

    I hope I don’t need to replace my natural gas stove with a wood stove, because I don’t have many trees in my yard for fuel.


  3. The mention of Dick Cheney sends chills down my spine, I have never seen a more corrupt and evil person in the US government, and this man was handpicked by the Bush family to be Vice-President , he made the antics of Richard Nixon more like an obnoxious teenager in comparison, He was the President of Haliburton, put there because of close ties to the Ford and Bush administrations , these ties made billions for Haliburton in profits, when George W. was selected President by the Republican controlled Supreme Court of America.. They had what was like the holy grail, Dick, gave huge no bid contracts to his former employer, and in return he continued to rake in millions while he was Vice president, in stock options, Vice President Agnew was given the boot, for far less offenses, The term conflict of interest meant nothing to this well known draft dodger, who kept out of the draft by every devious method out there, keep in college and make lot’s of babies. !!!Halliburton bought out an oil drilling company my father in-law had stock in , when it was taken over, their old stock was made into Halliburton stock, Dresser Oil Drilling Corp was a good paying stock, once upon a time


  4. A hearty congratulations to all the individuals and citizen groups who worked tirelessly to make their local and state governments aware of the dangerous of tracking and of the political price they would pay for ignoring their citizens’ concerns. We here in Ontario need to take note of this fine example of solidarity and perseverance.


  5. I know a farm in Black Creek that has it’s own gas well, I also notice that my wife’s silver heirlooms blacken very quickly because of the sulphur that is evident around here .Gas is very near the surface around Lake Erie, my brother in-law, while he owned a home overlooking the lake in Erie PA. had his own gas well, ran a refrigerator off it as well as heating the house .Niagara Falls had an amazing lighted spring that burned all of the time, Burning Springs. near where the old bus depot used to be , Fallsview.


  6. a BIG Yes to all of the above comments. Well said, all.


  7. If anyone can view it, please watch the movie on HBO about fracking, Gasland. It may be available on line too. VERY frightening. It shows all the dangers of fracking, air pollution, water pollution & increased seismic activity (our area is seismically active eg Ridgeway) since it disturbs balances in the geological strata. Minor to moderate earthquakes are occurring where they were previously unknown. Aquifers are contaminated & they can light water from their taps – not just one case but many. Nobody will buy their property yet people cannot remain there themselves due to the unbearable & unsafe conditions . Many just walk away from their homes. They must even buy water to feed livestock & pets. Farm animals are born deformed. Special cameras show the gases escaping into the air. What more proof do we need that fracking is dangerous yet it is done for a fossil fuel that we should be restricting?
    If anyone has been to the north island of New Zealand, there are numerous places with signs warning of poison gases being emitted naturally from the earth. So what do we do? We create conditions to emit poison gases by choice.


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