Water is our most Precious Resource

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is the NY Moratorium on Hydrofracking Enough?

There was a brief moment of jubilation last week after the New York State Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass the moratorium on issuing permits for hydrofracking until May 2011. It was the first victory in what has already been a 2-year fight to educate the public on the perils of hydrofracking, and to prevent this unregulated, risky, and deadly form of gas extraction from taking place in New York.

The party was short lived. Last Thursday, David Sager (candidate for the 42nd district senate seat in NY) held a press conference at the Monticello Government Center to say, essentially, that this very short moratorium is the absolute LEAST that the senate could have done to protect our water, our environment, our health, and our infrastructure. Hydrofracking is essentially industrial mining, he said, and it needs to be treated as such. This bill doesn't even begin to address the real issues surrounding hydrofracking in NY. Mr. Sager is calling for new legislation to protect Sullivan County, which is the epicenter of the proposed 85,000 wells. He wants legislation that would support a ban until such time as:
- the national Frack Act is passed
- the current EPA study is analyzed
- a true cumulative impact study is performed
- there are appropriate treatment plants for the toxic wastewater
- there is adequate manpower for the regulation of the 80,000+ wells
- windfall taxes are in place to support the infrastructure
- there is support for home rule
- attention is paid to "compulsory integration" (meaning, those of us whose water supplies would be affected even if we don't sign leases)
- attention is paid to farmers who can't currently earn enough money to support their work; signing leases for hydrofracking should not be their only alternative.

Mr. Sager then turned over the microphone to Wendy Robinson of S.A.C.R.E.D, who said that this bill, although it's a step in the right direction, is purely symbolic.

Following Ms. Robinson was Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, who is leading the way in lobbying efforts in Albany. So far, only 36 property owners in Sullivan County, out of 70,000 residents, have signed leases.

The last speaker of the day was Wes Gillingham of Catskillmountainkeeper.org, who applauded the state senate for passing the moratorium bill. He urged that hydrofracking should be the most important issue in elections this year.

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