For some New Yorkers, fracking is a future nightmare. For others, it’s a delightful daydream of prosperity. It’s pretty safe to file State Senator George Maziarz in that daydream category, judging by his comment hinting that Governor Cuomo is likely to give some sort of approval next year to fracking.
On this issue, we can do without unfounded predictions. With the legislative session winding to a close soon, what we really do need is passage of a bill imposing a moratorium of at least three years on the issuance of permits for natural gas extraction in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. Maziarz is in a position to do something about passing a bill like that, but his wishful comments about a quick decision on fracking don’t offer a lot of hope that he’ll back the moratorium.
As for me, I’ve long been in the nightmare camp, based on my study of the issues. Now, I’ve taken a step further into that nightmare world, by recently revisiting Susquehanna County, PA. It’s a fracking hotbed that includes the now infamous town of Dimock, where faulty gas drilling contaminated the drinking water supply for over a dozen families. While much has been written about Pennsylvania’s fracking-related water problems, my NRDC colleagues and I were there to hear from affected community members and observe firsthand the air pollution coming off two compressor stations that are channeling a portion of the county’s Marcellus Shale gas through an extensive pipeline network.
To that visit, I didn’t bring the expertise of a public health professional or a scientist. But as a living, breathing human being, I can tell you that those compressor stations are emitting substantial amounts of something that smells toxic, feels like metal in one’s mouth, and gave some in our group instant headaches. Nearby residents reported to us that, in addition to those symptoms, many have experienced—for the first time in their lives—severe nosebleeds.
And, as a fairly well-educated person who reads a lot, I can tell you that what is beginning to be reported from those who are public health professionals and scientists about the emerging studies of both air and water pollution from fracking and its associated activities is deeply troubling. This letter to Governor Cuomo from a distinguished group of scientists and health experts underlines the seriousness of the issue. Along with many existing studies, it provides a strong rationale for the careful, deliberative process that New York has thus far taken in regards to new fracking in our state. If there is one thing that has become painfully clear over the past six to eighteen months, it is that we simply do not know enough about fracking’s health risks to make a responsible decision to move ahead here.
As an environmentalist, mother and concerned citizen, I join the many health professionals and scientists who signed on to last week’s letter in calling on our lawmakers to impose a formal moratorium of three to five years on new fracking in New York, so that we have the time to await and fully evaluate the substantial new research into health effects that is being done around the country. We have a special opportunity to ensure that we put the health of New Yorkers first, rather than subjecting them to the science experiment being conducted in our neighboring state, with human beings as the lab animals.
In March, I wrote about the growing body of evidence that there’s good reason to worry about the potential health and environmental impact of fracking. So, in recent weeks we have stepped up our education campaign, hoping that the legislature and the governor will put in place a statutory moratorium on fracking permits. Here’s a radio ad, released last month, that makes the argument for caution.
While he was in a predicting mood, Maziarz also offered this view about this year’s gubernatorial campaign, pitting the governor against Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino: “The political antenna is telling me I think this is going to be a very large discussion in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.” Still, we have maintained all along that this issue should not be decided on basis of political rhetoric, in the heat of a campaign or otherwise, but solely on the evidence of sound science.
To give that science a chance to develop further, we need a period of years, not months. So please join me in calling on your senators and members of the Assembly to get behind a moratorium of three to five years. We’ve designated today as a call-in day. But don’t let it stop there. Call early and often. Call your local legislators. Call legislative leaders.
In the Assembly, call or email Speaker Sheldon Silver (518-455-3791).
As for Senator Maziarz, we should all urge him to put more energy into adopting a sensible moratorium and a lot less energy into unfounded guesswork about the future of fracking.