On January 25, environmental activists from across New York State gathered in Albany to rally and speak with legislators about the threat of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Despite the monsoon-ish rainstorm, a large and lively rally was held outside of the Capitol building -- making the rest of Albany look as desolate as a scene from "The Road." When the monster winds blew the rally inside, activists dried off and then went into lobbying mode.
Gas drilling companies plan to use a controversial technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to extract natural gas trapped in the Marcellus Shale. “Fracking” involves pumping millions of gallons of water and toxic chemicals at high pressure into each well, and it poses a substantial threat to water, air, and ecosystems around the Marcellus Shale. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued a draft study intended to assess the environmental impacts hydro-fracking might have in the Marcellus Shale. Over 13,000 comments have been submitted in response and it can be assumed, from the tenor of the public hearings, that the bulk of comments would support amending the draft report to reassess the real dangers inherent in the drilling of thousands of new natural gas wells. However, Governor Paterson, driven by monumental budget problems, continues to support drilling despite initial concerns raised by the U.S. EPA, the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection and New Yorkers statewide.
Key meetings were held with central legislative players, such as Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (chair of the Assembly Environment Committee) and Senator Antoine Thompson (Senate Env. chair) as well as staffers in both houses and from the Governor's office. The lobby meetings covered a wide range of issues, including the lack of basic regulations for the massive water withdrawals needed for “fracking” in the Marcellus Shale (DEC has no central authority to regulate this intensive industrial process and, as of now, it is an inadequate, crazy-quilt permit structure).
Add to this lack of basic regulation, the harsh impact that drilling will have on environmentally sensitive locations and it's clear that the state legislation has a lot to deliberate. A massive turnout like the one we just had on January 25 can leave an indelible memory on the process and shape the next round of discussions.
If you'd like to see footage from the event, check out this video produced by John Valenti on Environmental Countdown's website: http://ec.environmentalcountdown.org/_Gas-Drilling-Lobby-Day-in-Albany-12510/video/912225/4315.html