Students and community members responded to a national call to action Saturday afternoon at Binghamton’s “Global Frackdown.”
Held Downtown at the Peacemaker’s Stage, the rally drew over 120 to protest hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The increasingly controversial process involves shooting water, chemicals and sand into the ground to break apart rocks and extract natural gas.
Supporters of fracking claim that the industry could offer New York an economic boom, specifically reviving economically struggling areas like the Southern Tier, while anti-frackers cite chemical contamination and adverse health effects as reasons to ban the process.
At the “Global Frackdown,” citizens gathered with signs to hear personal testimonies from several speakers who have felt the effects of fracking. Two of the signs read “We Are Not Guinea Pigs” and “Don’t Frack With Our Water.”
For five years, New York has been under a de facto moratorium on high-volume fracking, launched in 2008 by then-Gov. David Paterson. Paterson delayed a decision on fracking, ordering the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to complete the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) before committing to a ban.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has delayed action until SGEIS, meant to determine the potential environmental and health effects of fracking, has been completed.
In the meantime, anti-frackers in New York are pushing for a full ban on the process.
“Global Frackdown” organizer and Binghamton University alumnus Isaac Silberman-Gorn called the rally a “day of solidarity” among communities fighting to end fracking. Over 200 communities participated in the movement, with 22 just in New York state.
“What people don’t realize is that this is a statewide, countrywide and worldwide issue,” Silberman-Gorn said. “If you don’t feel the effects of fracking, you’re going to feel the effects of the associated infrastructure.”
New Yorkers Against Fracking, Food &Water Watch, Frack Action, Citizen Action of New York and New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) collaborated to host the second annual “Global Frackdown.” Among the anti-fracking attendees was also a group of roughly 10 pro-drilling campaigners.
“It’s better than the alternative,” said Binghamton native Victor Furman, naming nuclear and coal fuels as more harmful energy options. “There’s a whole bunch of things that you can do to conserve energy and not have such a high demand for energy, but we’re pigs. We’re energy pigs. We can’t live without it.”
Ayla Alvarez, a junior majoring in political science who joined the Frackdown with a sign that read “Frack is Wack,” said regional environmental concerns are important across the state.
“Whether or not if you live in New York City or Long Island, fracking, if it begins in New York state, will affect all of us regardless,” Alvarez said. “A lot of people aren’t aware of that, and they think that it’s just an isolated issue, and it’s really not.”
Justin Neal, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, called for more attention to fracking legislation.
“Stop watching reality shows, and stop watching Miley Cyrus,” Neal said. “Turn on the news for a second and stay informed.”
Saturday’s demonstration took place in the wake of a letter written earlier this month by Binghamton Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, who is on Cuomo’s fracking advisory panel, criticizing SGEIS and the inaction on fracking legislation. In the letter, written to NYSDEC Commissioner Joseph Martens and dated Oct. 7, Lupardo calls for more transparency in the review and more input from citizens.
“There has been no public notice, opportunity for public review or public hearing to listen to testimony from interested parties,” Lupardo wrote. Lupardo, who initially proposed a public health impact study to review the effects of fracking, said that had her approach been taken when concerns were initially raised, it would have been completed by now.
The Democrat-led New York State Assembly has consistently supported a moratorium on fracking.
Cuomo responded to Lupardo’s letter on Oct. 10, saying he is content with the status of the state’s review process, according to Democrat and Chronicle.
“We’re trying to bring down the emotion and bring up the information, so we’ll make a decision on the facts rather than on feelings, which is always good,” Cuomo said. “We are doing the best we can to understand all the facts, which obviously it’s hard to get all the information put together, but I feel good about where we are.”