It isn’t often these days that the good guys win one. But here’s a beautiful example of a successful effort so far by the activist group Catskill Mountainkeeper and friends.
The fight to prevent unsafe gas drilling in New York State, which includes the region called the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, received a huge vote of approval on the night of August 4. At 12:17 a.m., the New York State Senate passed a bill that would impose a moratorium on granting any further permits for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) until May 15, 2011.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo), and was passed by a whooping margin of 48-9, with strong bipartisan support that included 15 Republican votes. It’s one of those seemingly rare moments in politics today when legislators on both sides of the aisle see the light on a key issue and act on behalf of their constituents.
The next step though is for the assembly version of the bill (A11443-b) to be voted on by the assembly when they get back from their summer break after September 15. I have every reason to believe these fine legislators will “do the right thing” one more time and make not only New York and the tri-state region proud, but all of America, with more than 30 affected states, proud and hopeful that they can protect their environment and most importantly their precious drinking water from contamination by fracking.
This bill had been considered by many as “dead on arrival,” but the legislators were positively affected by the relentless efforts of the group of activists called the Catskill Mountainkeeper, with a broad coalition of its grassroots partners. As said by Wes Gillingham, manager of Mountainkeeper’s field efforts that generated public support for the bill, and who was on the Senate floor that evening until 12:17 a.m., pushing the bill: “This important step is a tremendous display of what can happen when citizens stand up and take action.” Hear that, US Congress?
Again, it’s important to note that the passage of this bill by the state Senate does not make this a completely done deal. Now, Catskill Mountainkeeper and the bill’s supporters must make sure the bill is passed by the state Assembly and signed by the governor as quickly as possible. So the pedal must be kept to the metal on all efforts, which is the essence of democratic process.
New York residents are advised to Email and call Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and their own assembly members (contact your own member here) and to remind them to bring the bill (A11443-B in that house) to a vote ASAP.
New York residents can also Call Governor Paterson and tell him to hear the call of New Yorkers across the state to slow (if not permanently halt) any new fracking gas drilling, and to make sure that it can be done safely before our communities, drinking water, air quality, and landscapes are ruined.
This has been a long, a hard and expensive fight. The people who gathered with Catskill Mountainkeeper were not given a chance two years ago when they picked up the challenge on behalf of the citizens of the Catskill region and New York State. Yet today, the good guys across the political spectrum see an important victory in sight if they can stick together and build political pressure. Funding at this time comes only from individual contributions and foundation grants.
Also, you may remember that I wrote about the evils of fracking in an article. Welcome to ‘Gasland’: it could kill you! Here is a chunk of it to give you more reasons to help.
“No, Gasland is not an unsafe theme park. It’s the title of a jolting new documentary by filmmaker Josh Fox, which premiered on HBO a few nights ago. It left me with a sickening feeling about the industry that drills for natural gas. It makes you want to look at the list of countries you could move to. But then you say, hey, this is my country, too, made for you and me, as the song goes, so let’s do something about this.
“This is Hydraulic fracturing, ‘a process that results in the creation of fractures in rocks. This petroleum engineering method has been used over the past 60 years (though high-volume horizontal processes are much more recent) in more than one million wells by the worldwide natural gas and oil exploration and production industry to create fractures that extend from a wellbore drilled into targeted rock formations to enhance oil and natural gas recovery.” But that’s just the tip of the iceberg as fracking is being used today.’
“In fact, the inciting incident of this documentary occurred, when Josh Fox received an offer out of nowhere for $100,000 to purchase the gas drilling rights to his property in the Delaware River Basin, an area often called the “Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas.” Instead of taking the money, he decided to go off on a cross-country journey to look into the risks to local environments . . .
“As to government supporters the problem as Fox points out, is that hydraulic fracturing or fracking ‘was exempted by the Bush-Cheney Energy Policy Act of 2005 from the United States’ basic environmental regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act.’ Across the country, in states such as New York, and Pennsylvania, where drilling is slated to take place in the Delaware River Basin and New York City’s watershed in the Catskills, or in states where it is already occurring.
“Fracking in the Delaware River basin would threaten the potable water supply for 17 million people in Philadelphia, New York City and New Jersey.
“Natural gas companies have installed hundreds of thousands of rigs in 34 states, drilling into huge shale fields, tight sands or coal bed seams containing gas deposits trapped in the rock. Each well requires the use of fracking fluid – chemical cocktails consisting of 596 chemicals, including carcinogens and neurotoxins, as well as one to seven million gallons of water, which are infused with the chemicals . . .
“When Fox does the math, ‘Considering there are approximately 450,000 wells in the U.S., Fox estimates that 40 trillion gallons of chemically infused water have been created by the drilling, much of it left seeping or injected into the ground.’”
Please read the entire article to fully inform you of the dangers to your family, community, environment, air, and water, which ends up in many places literally flaming out of the tap if a lighter is held to it. The natural gas content in it is that high. It becomes undrinkable and people have to import huge water tanks and filtration systems just to have drinking water. And for now, if you can lend the Catskill Mountainkeeper your support, I’m sure it would be deeply appreciated.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. His book State Of Shock – Poems from 9/11 on is available at www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on American and world politics as an Associate Editor of Online Journal.