On Saturday, October 19, nearly 1,000 people gathered at Pier 62 in Manhattan to urge Governor Cuomo to ban fracking as the only way to protect New York’s air, water, soil, climate, property values and quality of life. The event was part of the second Global Frackdown day of action.
The event was one of more than 250 actions simultaneously taking place in 25 countries across six continents that aimed to bring awareness to food and water issues, including a ban on fracking. The “Global Frackdown,” united thousands of people concerned about the threat that drilling and fracking for oil and gas poses to the environment, communities and their shared resources. Concerned citizens sent a message to elected officials around the world that they want a future powered by clean, renewable energy, not polluting fossil fuels.
In New York the message was focused on Governor Cuomo and the pending decision he has to make about whether or not to ban fracking. The administration seemed ready to drill last summer, but since then has continued its moratorium on the controversial process and has been reviewing its potential impacts. There is no official timeline for a decision.
Anti-fracking protesters gathered outside the “Taste of New York” brunch being held as part of the New York City Wine & Food Festival at Chelsea Piers, an event Governor Cuomo was scheduled to host. The protestors waved signs that read “Food Not Fracking,” while a sailboat with sails bearing the same message and one with sails urging a stop to the Spectra and Rockaway pipelines moved back and forth in the Hudson River just outside the glass windows where the brunch was being held.
In addition to Cuomo’s presence, the brunch organizers touted that the meal would feature top New York State chefs and the best of what New York farms, butchers, brewers, distilleries and wineries have to offer. The brunch invitation highlighted the fact that about 25 percent of New York's land area (7.5 million acres) is used by 34,200 farms to produce a very diverse array of food products, making New York a leader in agricultural and food production in the United States.
“Governor Cuomo says he wants New York to have a strong tourism industry and to be a leader in producing food, beer and wine,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a non-profit consumer watchdog organization, at the rally at the Pier. “Tourists don’t flock to drill sites. Fracking and farming don’t mix.”
And concerns about fracking are already being felt by companies and organizations that go out of their way to buy goods from New York farmers. Last year, Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-Op purchased over $700,000 of chickens, over $500,000 of beef, lamb, and pork, and over $1,800,000 of fruits and vegetables that were grown or raised in New York State. They also sourced yogurt, cheese, eggs, cider, milk, and beer from in-state producers.
“If hydrofracking were allowed to go forward, Park Slope Food Co-op shoppers are certain to be asking if the fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs and meats from New York State are produced in areas where hydro-fracking is taking place,” said Margaret Maugenest, a longtime member of the Park Slope Food Co-op, which has over 16,000 members and is one of the largest member-owned food co-ops in the country, at the event. “The food co-op would start researching alternatives to New York State products.”
“Already Being Affected”
The state has launched a health study on the potential impact of fracking, and just last week Cuomo stated that he needs more facts.
“If the Governor needs more facts, we can arrange a tour for him of the fracking lands in Pennsylvania. He can cross the border and see first hand the devastation,” said Hauter. She continued, “He can see how fracking makes once beautiful farms into toxic industrial sites. He can talk to the people who are sick from the poisoned air and contaminated water. He can hear about how the social fabric of fracked communities has been shredded.”
Protesters also highlighted the fact that banning fracking in New York would only address one part of the problem and that Governor Cuomo has a responsibility to protect the land, food, water and health of all New Yorkers, whether its through banning fracking or stopping unsafe infrastructure build-out plans.
Clare Donahue, founder of the Sane Energy Project, a grassroots group that formed in January of 2011 to oppose the Spectra Pipeline and that now works to fight fossil fuel infrastructure and encourage renewables, said, “It's really crucial to make sure New Yorkers understand that even though there's a theoretical moratorium on fracking, we are already being affected by shale gas, because the infrastructure build-out is well under way.” That build-out includes controversial local fracking projects like the Spectra, Transco and Rockaway Lateral pipelines and a liquefied natural gas import terminal off the coast of Long Island.
Opposition Far and Wide
Later in the Frackdown program, Hauter praised the crowd: “Even with all that industry money, your voice has been louder. You are the reason there is no fracking in New York. Your courage, your dedication, our collective movement has trumped big money. And you are inspiring the global movement against fracking.
And we can’t let up the pressure. We have to keep it up working harder, faster, and smarter. We are making history, even as we stand here today. Onward to banning fracking in New York!”
Polls in New York show high levels of opposition to fracking. A recent one released by Siena College finds that 45 percent of New York voters oppose the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation plans to move forward with fracking in the Southern Tier, the part of the state that extends above Pennsylvania. Only thirty-seven percent said they would support such a move.
Currently the global fight to ban fracking and turn to real renewables is showing up as local ban measure across the globe. To date, 383 communities in the United States have passed measure against fracking. Last week, the European Parliament voted to require energy companies to conduct environmental audits before commencing drilling and fracking, and a French court upheld a ban on fracking. Bulgaria and some Swiss and German states have also adopted a ban or a moratorium on fracking activities.
David Galarza, a longtime labor and community activist and founding member of NY Contra El Gasoducto, which worked in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico to defeat a costly, destructive 92-mile long gas pipeline in Puerto Rico said, “Our air, our water and our farmlands are not for sale. You cannot put a price tag on the planet. No politician, no energy company, no bankster can claim to own, bargain with or control that which is ours collectively as human beings living on this planet."
"I'm sure Gov. Cuomo loves his mother and wouldn't let anybody mess with her. But I really hope that he doesn't let anyone mess with or mess up my Mother Earth, ‘cause we'll fight like hell for her too!"
Though Governor Cuomo was the host of the brunch and was featured on all of the promotional materials, he cancelled his appearance and never ended up attending the event.
Photos from actions across the world were posted on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #GlobalFrackdown and can also be found at www.globalfrackdown.org.
See The Indypendent's special report on the growing web of natural gas infrastructure projects in New York and the opposition they have inspired here.