Still trying to drill the message home: No fracking!

By Albert Amateau

Environmental advocates and elected officials rallied in Manhattan last week to mobilize opposition to hydraulic-fracture gas drilling in New York State

The process, known as fracking, involves drilling horizontally a mile or more below the surface and injecting high volumes of water laced with toxic chemicals and sand to fracture the shale and release gas trapped in the rock.

United for Action, an umbrella advocacy group, sponsored anti-fracking rallies in the Village and the Upper West Side last week with local state assemblymembers.

“I think fracking is the most important environmental issue of our time,” said Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal of the Upper West Side at the Nov. 3 rally at the L.G.B.T. Community Center on W. 13th St.

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, who represents Chelsea, noted that natural gas drilling has been going on in the state for 100 years.

“The difference is that instead of drilling straight down they now can go down a mile or more and then drill horizontally for thousands of feet, and pump 400,000 gallons of water laced with chemicals, including known carcinogens.”

While gas companies insist that the process can be done safely, Governor Cuomo has agreed to prohibit the process in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds.

“If it is not safe for New York City and Syracuse, how can it be safe for towns and farms that get their water from their own wells?” Gottfried asked.

Gas companies stress the economic benefits of gas fracking for property owners, the state tax rolls and employment. The Marcellus Shale formation has been called an energy source for decades to come, “like Saudi Arabia right under our feet.”

While it is true that natural gas burns cleaner and is less polluting than coal or oil, the environmental cost of trucking huge amounts of water and chemicals to wellheads must be figured in. Environmental damage from accidents and leaks of toxic wastewater is another problem, Gottfried added.

David Braun, a founder of United for Action, told the Nov. 3 rally that crucial deadlines are looming.

New York State is conducting hearings on a draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement that would govern fracking in the Marcellus Shale in the state’s southern tier counties along the Pennsylvania border.

On Wed., Nov. 30, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will hold a hearing on the draft E.I.S. at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers St., from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Braun said that United for Action and other coalition partners will hold a press event on Mon., Nov. 14, at noon in front of Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office, 633 Third Ave., to urge him to vote no.