New Paltz took a stand against hydrofracking in New York last week by sending a Valentine’s Day themed petition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Students from the New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG) held a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at SUNY New Paltz, urging the governor not to allow the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or hyrdofracking, until public health studies and environmental impacts statements are completed.
The conference addressed the alleged consequences of hydraulic fracturing, including the negative environmental and public health impacts associated with it, as well as the corrupt channels that New York State officials are using to convince the public that they are not at risk, according to NYPIRG Project Coordinator Eric Wood.
According to the NYPIRG website, hyrdofracking is a natural gas extraction process by which water, usually mixed with highly toxic chemicals, is forced down a drilled well at extremely high pressure to create or expand fractures, releasing gas trapped in rock formations.
The website states possible environmental and health impacts including contamination of water, toxicity of wastewater, chemicals and sand, as well as noise and air pollution.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, NYPIRG members asked Governor Cuomo not to “frack with our hearts,” and the group created a heart-shaped signature board with student signatures against fracking. More than 30 students attended the news conference to listen to the speakers and the Valentine petition was posted to Cuomo’s Facebook page.
During the event, NYPIRG’s Anti-Fracking Project Leader Jade Schwartz, a fourth-year communications major, started off the event by addressing the current economic stand on hydrofracking in government.
“Attempting to heal New York’s failing economy with extreme energy extraction on this level is like trying to heal a gunshot wound with gauze,” Schwartz said. “What we need to realize is that, with no environment, there is no economy.”
NYPIRG intern and first-year biology major Meghan Spoth, followed Schwartz by saying many voices have opposed fracking in New York, and the Governor cannot ignore an issue that democracy has to decide for him.
“The decision made by New York State with regards to ‘fracking’ will be a true test on whether true democracy exists here or not,” Spoth said in a NYPIRG press release. “It is clear that with over 100 municipalities in the state creating local bans, and over 204,000 written comments to the DEC to reject ‘fracking,’ that the majority of us do not want this to occur.”
The State Department of Health had a deadline of Feb. 13 to finalize their public health impact assessment on fracking for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), but it was not completed, delaying the governor’s decision several more months.
“Clearly, Albany wants fracking to go forward in the state,” Schwartz said. “Yet, the cost could very well be the health and safety of New Yorkers and our environment.”
NYPIRG has spearheaded the fight against fracking on campus with phone calls to the governor, awareness tabling, signature petitions and trips to protests around the state.
“Due to the devastating consequences we are seeing in states where fracking has been permitted, I could only hope for the sake of New York State as a whole, the environment and the health of the people living here, that it is not allowed in New York,” Wood said.
NYPIRG is currently organizing a statewide Earth Day Lobby Day on April 23 in Albany and will plan more large-scale events once the pending decision on hydraulic fracturing is finalized.