Protesters in New Paltz repeated their opinion loud and clear regarding the use of hydraulic-fracturing in their region – “no fracking way.”
Shoeless, tie-dyed and impassioned members of New Paltz’s campus and village community gathered on Old Main Quad and marched through village streets Friday, April 29, to rally against the use of hydraulic fracturing in New York.
Melanie Glenn, an organizer of the rally, said the march was a way for New Paltz to have their opinions heard regarding the use of the controversial natural gas extraction process.
“This is our action,” Glenn said. “This is a democracy and our voice matters.”
The march and rally was intended to be an action that capped off Sustainable Action Week at SUNY New Paltz. Organizers said they hoped participants of the week’s events would take the information they’ve learned and fight for a moratorium on the use of the controversial process.
The rally capped a seven-day series of events which, according to the goals published by the group’s working during the week, was envisioned to spread community consciousness and understand resource consumption habits to then use the knowledge to bring sustainable solutions to the New Paltz community. The week’s events included multiple fairs, guest speakers, documentary showings and a campus farmer’s market.
Village resident and member of the Climate Action Coalition of New Paltz Rosalyn Cherry said the protesters intended to end their march by calling Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martins to show them that members of the community are against fracking.
Students for Sustainable Agriculture President Yael Krevsky said she hoped the march would inspire the New Paltz community to think of innovative ways to fight against hydraulic fracturing.
“I hope that the New Paltz community becomes more engaged with events like this,” Krevsky said. “I’m glad it started on campus and then into town and mobilized the larger community. I hope this is a stepping stone for more great things to come.”
Hydraulic-fracturing has been debated among Hudson Valley residents. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, the process hydraulic-fracturing fires pressurized fluids into rock formations, fissuring and splintering them and allowing drilling companies to extract natural gas from within the shale.
Protesters argued that the process is hazardous to the health of the environment and those living within it, believing the extraction can contaminate drinking water and the fluid injected into the rock includes hazardous chemicals.
Environmental Task Force Co-chair Ariana Basco, who was recently elected to be a village trustee, participated in the rally and said fracking was an issue she wanted to protest against.
“I think we should ban fracking,” Basco said. “It’s not a safe process and we are putting our drinking water at risk, our lives at risk. I think we can have a world that is a lot better and I want to pass that onto future generations.”
The gas drilling industry has said it is impossible for the fluids to enter groundwater, and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists have been unable to investigate claims of contamination because the identity of chemicals used in fracking are protected as trade secrets – an exemption the EPA cannot override under the 2005 Energy Policy Act.
Students and village residents painted signs hours before the march, urging the public to support their cause while other protesters worked on puppets or larger signs to show the village. Large white spinning windmills covered the sunlit quad, attracting passerbys and interested students.
Before leaving, Glenn stood atop a table and drove her fist into the air, gathering the crowd in front of her. Members of the group loudly beat drums and made noise before assembling in a large circle and joining hands.
“Raise your hand if you want renewable energy!” Glenn said before leading the group off campus. “Are you ready?”
After engaging oncoming cars and casual members of the village on Main Street, the march ended on the lawn of the Department of Environmental Conservation at 21 S. Putt Corners Rd.
While there, speakers including Ulster County Legislator Susan Zimit, and SUNY New Paltz Professor Donna Flayhan. Village Trustee Shari Osborn also spoke, explaining current legislation regarding hydro-fracking, the potential health hazards and the shale that sits beneath the village of New Paltz.
Osborn’s legislation would ban the use of fracking in the municipality and not allow the material to be transported through or dumped on properties within New Paltz.
Jim Krivo, a local activist and musician, also led the protesters in songs written by the different groups before members of the community performed small skits –portraying characters such as drilling executives, affected townspeople and a polar bear.
Sitting on the steps of Old Library and looking out at the tables, wind mills and banners across Old Main Quad, Cherry said she hoped the rally could lead to future action from those who attended.
“You have an idea and you can actually do it. Look at this,” Cherry said. “It’s amazing how everything has fallen in place.”