Keep the Letters Coming!
Since we launched our letter campaign one week ago, we’ve received more than 3,500 letters that we’ll pack up and ship off to the DEC before the January 11th deadline. To keep up the pressure, we’ve added five more letters to the mix. These cover such important topics as the threat of radioactivity, the use of secret toxic chemicals, and the need to close hazardous waste loophole that allows the industry to improperly dispose of wastewater. Please take a few minutes to complete all of these letters, and personalize them to the extent you can. If you rewrite a letter in your own words, it will carry a lot more weight with the DEC.
2011 and 2012
By any measure, 2011 was a year of real progress in New York State. The tireless works of thousands of fractivists resulted in an unprecedented degree of public awareness and vastly expanded news coverage. A recent Time Magazine article hailed Tony Ingraffea, Bob Howarth and Mark Ruffalo as “People Who Mattered”, and called fracking the “biggest environmental issue” of the year.
Meanwhile, the industry’s multimillion dollar ad campaign to sell fracking to New Yorkers is going nowhere. Statewide polls continue to show that most people who become aware of fracking oppose it, and regional polls demonstrate that there is overwhelming opposition in the communities that sit atop the shale. Town after town has enacted zoning prohibitions and moratoriums that will prohibit fracking.
As the statewide anti-fracking movement enters its fifth year, Catskill Citizens has set its sights on three critical goals.
- Protect and Build on Gains at the Local Level
- Block State Funding for Fracking
- Build Support for a Permanent Ban
Support Home Rule
The move to enact local prohibitions against fracking was a major success story in 2011. More than a dozen towns have already banned fracking, dozens more have enacted moratoriums, and many more are considering similar actions. Expanding on, and protecting, these gains must be one of our top priorities in 2012.
While most lawyers agree that municipalities have the right to zone out fracking, the law is vague – vague enough for the gas industry to try to overturn local ordinances in court. Two towns (Dryden and Middlefield) are already being sued, and the fear of lawsuits prevents many other towns from taking action.
Map by Karen Edelstein
We expect New York’s highest court will eventually uphold the rights of towns to zone out fracking, but it would be a serious setback if unfavorable lower court decisions overturned the zoning prohibitions already in place and halted the rapidly expanding effort to ban drilling at the local level. Areas now off limits would be reopened to fracking, the movement would be disheartened, and the activists who persuaded their communities to enact ordinances would be discredited. We cannot afford to let this happen.
Fortunately there’s a bill in the legislature that clarifies the right to zone out fracking – and it appears to have enough Republican and Democratic support to be enacted. “Home rule” is guaranteed by the state constitution, and the concept has broad appeal across the ideological spectrum; even Governor Cuomo may be loath to force fracking on communities that have acted out of a concern for public safety and to preserve the character of their towns.
The Budget Option: No way around it, fracking will cost New York taxpayers millions in upfront costs. It’s estimated that the DEC itself will need $20 million to begin to ramp up for shale gas extraction, and the Department of Transportation estimates road and bridge repair could cost taxpayers almost $400 million a year.
So what would happen if the legislature simply refused to fund fracking? This intriguing plan was outlined by Sierra Atlantic’s Roger Downs in testimony before a legislative committee last fall. The beauty of a “budget ban” is that is it can be accomplished without the cooperation of either Governor Cuomo or the Republican-controlled Senate. The (somewhat) more progressive Assembly can singlehandedly block fracking by refusing to pass a budget that includes the funds the state will need for fracking.
What about a Legislative Prohibition? While we’d all loved to see an immediate permanent prohibition on fracking in New York State (and elsewhere), we don’t think one can be enacted in the short-term. To get a ban bill through the Senate, it will have to have Republican support that has yet to materialize.
But the current de facto moratorium may give us the time we need to build support for a legislative ban. In recent weeks DEC Commissioner Joe Martens made conflicting statements about when his department will be able to issue permits for high-volume fracking. First he suggested it wouldn’t be able to move ahead in 2012, but more recently he said permitting could begin in “late spring”. Given the fact that the department is legally obligated to read and address the still uncounted tens of thousands of public comments it will receive on the Draft SGEIS, we consider the late spring estimate unrealistic – we think procedural delays are likely to hold up fracking throughout next year.
That means we may have time to build popular support for a ban. While public awareness is growing every day, millions of New Yorkers still haven’t heard a thing about fracking, and we have to change that – we can’t expect our politicians to stand up to the gas industry until the majority of New Yorkers demand they do so.
Save the date! January 23rd will be a statewide day of action. Citizens from across the state will be gathering in Albany to rally and meet with our legislators. For details on transportation, and to sign up to speak with lawmakers, click here.
For more information email [email protected] or call (845) 468 7063
Two out of three people who find out about fracking think the risks aren’t worth the rewards.
Public awareness is the key to our success, so spread the word!
Please donate to Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy.