“Occupy DEC” Rally, January 12th, 2012, and Commentary

Members of FrackAction, Occupy Albany, as well as other members of the community and some local school children all gathered on Broadway in downtown Albany at the Department of Environmental Conservation building for a rally opposing fracking in New York State. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process for extracting natural gas from shale formations by breaking up rock with drills and large volumes of water and chemicals. New York state currently has a moratorium on fracking, and several municipalities have banned the practice. Albany’s city council passed a ban on fracking which was vetoed by the mayor. The DEC is currently conducting an environmental impact study on the practice of hydrolic fracturing. The DEC’s public comment period ended yesterday, January 11th.

At the rally, demonstrators in mock-ups of hazmat suits waved signs, chanted, and held up bottles of colored water. When security refused to allow demonstrators to enter the building, demonstrators staged a die-in at the entrance to the DEC building, eventually resurrecting as “fracking zombies.” Demonstrators were joined by a contingent of children from the local Albany Free School, who sang a song about the dangers posed to the water-supply they will inherit if hydraulic fracturing is ever allowed in New York State.

The evidence is pretty over-whelming that hydraulic fracturing is dangerous and ecologically disastrous in the states and communities it has been allowed in. It requires large amounts of water to be pumped into the ground, a great deal of which returns to the surface and must be carted away as “toxic” to dumps. Local papers have also reported, that during the DEC comment period, New Yorkers who opposed to fracking in New York State did so at a rate 10 to 1 for supporters of the jobs natural gas wells may bring to parts of rural New York where gas companies have leases. Even though oil companies have launched a PR campaign saying that fracking is safe, many New Yorkers are not buying it. On the website energytomorrow.org, a site promoted and created by the American Petroleum Institute, oil companies and their supporters insist that hydraulic fracturing is a “proven and well regulated technology” … “that has safely produced 7 bill barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.” Still, since I am a late-comer to the debate about fracking, I am going to argue from another perspective about why New Yorkers should oppose hydraulic fracturing.

During Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State Speak on January 4th, Andrew Cuomo spoke about how New York has a legacy as a progressive leader for the nation. Citing the Seneca Falls Convention among his historical examples. If New York is going to lead the country, it shouldn’t be following the examples of Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania -among others, that have allowed hydraulic fracturing. Upstate New York has been trying to build its reputation as Tech Valley. There is nothing more anathema to a reputation as a technology leader than to embrace fossil fuels as a way to meet our energy needs. Fossil fuels powered the industrial revolution in the 19th century, it is now the twenty-first. What say you, Mr. Cuomo?

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