Fracking Fight Must Continue Across the State

By Joan McKiernan

Local anti-fracking campaigners are breathing a big sigh of relief following the Governor’s decision to ban the process of fracking in the state because of the proven danger to the state’s air, water, and public-health. His decision raises the need for economic development and the creation of good, safe jobs for the Southern Tier.

Despite the ban, the campaign against fracking activities and the dominance of big gas companies is not over. Anti-fracking activists from Broome County joined hundreds of others from 36 New York counties at Ithaca College recently to share their experiences in combating the spread of dirty energy. While there are no gas fracking wells in New York, and now there won’t be for now, local communities across the state have already experienced damage from dangerous infrastructure such as pipelines, compressor stations, gas storage projects, and gas waste disposal. And people have been fighting back. Organized by the Coalition to Protect Communities from Fracking’s Collateral Damage, the conference heard of the research, education, strategies and tactics used to fight the gas companies. Lawyers, activists, and local town council members explained the legislation that can be used to protect health. Others explained the system of government regulatory bodies and how people can get involved in the process to work to get the regulators to do their job, which is to protect ordinary people rather than the gas companies.

Veterans of the anti-fracking fight, from Madison County down to Orange County, shared their stories about organizing, raising awareness, and getting people together to protect their health. Those who used their local zoning laws to pass fracking bans, fought the building of a 24 inch pipeline from Johnson City to Syracuse, opposed compressor stations and processing stations as in Duanesburg, detailed their successes. Others shared stories of defeat. In Minisink the entire town was opposed to the placement of a compressor station in the midst of a residential area. Local people suggested a more remote location. The gas company, however, rejected the compromise. Regulators shrugged off responsibility. Now families are experiencing rashes, nose bleeds, and abdominal cramps. Pamela Malik discussed the lessons of their struggle, including the impact of gas company money going to local politicians and corrupt judges. These experiences and others spurred the people in West Windsor, where there have been two explosions already, and nearby Hancock to collect their own data and evidence to examine the harm coming from the compressor stations near their homes.

The fight against the gas storage facilities in caverns under Seneca Lake also continues. There the police and judges have joined in support of the gas company, jailing peaceful protestors who are trying to protect their health and environment. The opposition has included local business owners who are opposed to the gas storage as local jobs and businesses are threatened.

Revelations about the already occurring impact surprised many. Every day brings a new negative revelation about fracking in our local area, such as the extent of Pennsylvania gas waste coming to places like Chemung County and the spreading of dangerous drilling waste (brine) on our roads. We were recently made aware that 500 schools are located within the half-mile explosion zone around the train route that brings Bakken Shale crude oil through NY towns and that the Marcellus Shale is 25 times more radioactive than anything on the surface, but there is no landfill in the state licensed to take radioactive waste. At the same time, one town councilor explained that local governments are under attack, particularly by the governor, thus weakening the voice of local people. There is certainly much to be afraid about, but the conference provided local activists much information and advice as they continue to struggle against big gas which puts profits ahead of people.

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