Which is it, New York - clean energy or dirty energy?

Right now, as this new video from Mark Ruffalo shows, we in New York State are at a crossroads that will determine the course of our energy future. Are we going to embrace clean, renewable energy, or are we going to stay tied to the polluting energy of the past and even increase our reliance on dirty energy in the future through hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking?

In New York, we now have an incredible opportunity to move forward with clean, renewable solar power. The opportunity comes in the form of New York Solar legislation, which includes the 3 key principles necessary to drive a robust solar industry in NY: certainty, longevity, and scale; all without impacting existing utility rates.

The bill would ensure the development of several thousand megawatts of solar power within the coming decade—enough to power hundreds of thousands homes. It would create thousands of local jobs for New Yorkers to design and install solar power systems. Also, because solar arrays produce the most power in our hottest summer months, when demand for electricity soars and so-called “peaker” plants come online to meet it, the legislation would reduce the use of our state’s most polluting and expensive power plants. You can add to these benefits the fact that the New York Solar Bill would also promote considerable private investment in New York’s solar industry. And, finally, the legislation would offer us a place in the global solar market, now valued at a mere $100 billion a year – including the likes of ‘oil rich’ Saudi Arabia.

Importantly, it would do all this without the many environmental downsides of the state’s other, much-touted energy opportunity: fracking.

In fact, here’s what’s at risk with fracking that you don’t get with solar power:

Contaminated drinking water. Across the country, fracking has been associated with the contamination of water supplies. Gas production using fracking involves a mind-numbing list of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic chemicals and compounds. These can include benzene, xylene, methane, diesel fuel, isopropanol, diethylene glycol, triethylene glycol, tert-butyl alcohol and many, many more.

Water-Supply Stress. The solar photovoltaic systems promoted through New York Solar Bill would use very little water—just a little in the manufacture of the panels and to rinse them off now and then. By contrast, each fracked well can require several million gallons of water. Fracking is also a “consumptive use” of water, meaning it removes water from its natural sources but doesn’t replenish it later. In the long-term, our access to fresh water declines.

Toxic Air Emissions. Ever stand near a solar panel? What you’ll smell is, well, nothing. By contrast, gas drilling and fracking release a variety of toxic air pollutants from massive truck traffic, fumes emitted from well sites, and waste storage sites. In widespread reports, like those in this recent National Public Radio story, these toxic gases have been linked to health problems around the country, including very serious symptoms, among people living or working near drilling sites, and children going to school near fracking operations. Some people have been ordered by their doctors to evacuate their homes in order to protect the health of their families.

Risk of Explosions and Chemical Spills. Natural gas is inherently volatile. It’s no surprise, then, that the news is dotted with stories of dangerous explosions at fracking sites. Similarly, the toxic chemicals used in fracking sometimes spill, contaminating important farmland and waterways.

Mark Ruffalo is right. The New York Solar Bill promotes the kind of energy we need in the Empire State and helps protect us from the dangers of fracking. Solar power is clean, renewable energy that will create jobs for New Yorkers, cut pollution, and keep our water supply safe and abundant, not just now, but for generations to come.