By Mark Wachtler
December 23, 2014. Albany, NY. (ONN) New York State is looking more and more like a Green Party stronghold these days. First, the Party’s candidate for NY Governor, Howie Hawkins, increased his vote total four-fold over four years ago. Now, Green Party activists are celebrating a huge victory as Governor Andrew Cuomo just announced a statewide ban on hydraulic fracking in New York. At the same time, Wall Street and the right are shocked and outraged by the announcement.
The anti-fracking movement in NY was fierce, relentless, and finally victorious. Image courtesy of DontFrackNY.org.
In the never-ending tug-o-war between the few mighty power-brokers at the top and the countless powerless masses at the bottom, the little guys won for a change. The New York fracking ban, just announced by Governor Cuomo and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Health, was won on the precinct level, not the executive level. The website FracTracker.org confirms that 80 local NY municipalities have already banned fracking. 100 more have instituted moratoriums or temporary bans. And 86 more municipalities have an organized, local, grassroots organization fighting passionately for the ban. That’s where the victory was won - one Ward and Township at a time.
New York fracking ban
It wasn’t leadership on behalf of Governor Cuomo that led to a statewide ban on fracking, but rather a lack of it. In his decision to outlaw the controversial drilling method, Cuomo said he would defer to the recommendation of Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. Last week, the two men released the results of their fracking study. Local media outlets reported, ‘They concluded that shale gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing carried unacceptable risks that haven’t been sufficiently studied.’
The Green Party’s 2014 New York Gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins was one of the most outspoken advocates for a fracking ban. He and his campaign website celebrated the announcement. “This news is a victory for all New Yorkers who have dedicated their lives for the past six years to keep fracking out of New York,” Hawkins said in a statement distributed by the Green Party national office, “Together, we have won more than just a ban. Today, we have a strong movement that must now use our people-power to win the transition to 100% renewable energy for New York by 2030 in order to fight climate change.”
Green Party of NY Co-Chair Gloria Mattera added, “Finally, the Cuomo administration has embraced what we have known all along - that fracking pollutes the air, land and water, posing incalculable risks to families and business across New York, especially those near drilling sites.” Michael O’Neil, the other GPNY Co-Chair, gave credit to the 180 local communities mentioned above. “If communities had let up on Cuomo and the fracking industry for even a moment,” he said, “they would have started drilling long ago.”
Corporations in shock
While the news of the ban was met with celebration among environmental activists, those looking to profit from the practice weren’t as happy. Business network CNBC had to go all the way to England to find an article from The Guardian that interviewed one New York apple farm owner who said he was “devastated” by the ban. He was under the belief that fracking was good for the nearby farming industry.
A report from Fox News also simply republished the footwork of our friends at Watchdog.org. The account interviewed a 64-year-old, life-long resident of rural Kirkwood, NY. “It's angered and upset me,” the person told the news outlet, “I think it was purely political.” Michael Lynch, President of Strategic Energy and Economic Research Inc., took a similar view saying, “This is about politics and poorly supported fears.”
On to Pennsylvania
Anti-fracking activists aren’t resting after their huge victory. They’ve instead set their sights on neighboring Pennsylvania. As our friends at desmogblog.com explain, the two states - New York and Pennsylvania - have had diametrically opposite positions on fracking from the start. While New York instituted a moratorium until safety studies could be conducted, Pennsylvania allowed hydraulic fracking well before any rules or regulations could even be written.
The results, Pennsylvania’s rivers, streams and soil have been poisoned by repeated toxic spills and illegal dumping by fracking corporations. Desmogblog.com gives an example writing, ‘In 2011, the state made national headlines for allowing shale wastewater laced with toxic and radioactive materials to be discharged after incomplete treatment into rivers and streams that were not capable of fully diluting the waste, according to internal EPA documents. Even now, toxic waste from the fracking industry is only tracked via industry self-reporting.’
The irony is that much of the research showing how devastating fracking is to the environment that was used in banning the practice in New York, was taken from actual fracking operations in next door Pennsylvania. The Director of Clean Water Action in Pennsylvania, Myron Arnowitt, agreed saying, “I think there is a strong feeling in Pennsylvania that what happened in New York is in large part because of the demonstrated damage caused by gas production here.”
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