In response to a visit by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, more than 30 people gathered outside the DoubleTree by Hilton in Downtown Binghamton to protest his policies on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a natural gas drilling process.
In a video posted to YouTube on Feb. 27, Astorino criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not pursuing the possibility of fracking in New York.
“We’re blessed in New York, and specifically in the Southern Tier, to have all this natural gas right under our feet,” Astorino said.
While Astorino said there should be a discussion between environmentalists and government leaders, he said he would support fracking.
“There is no reason why we shouldn’t be drilling for natural gas in the Southern Tier,” Astorino said.
In New York, there is a moratorium on fracking, and decisions regarding the process are on hold while the state conducts an environmental impact and health review.
The Broome County Republicans invited Astorino to be the keynote speaker for their annual Lincoln Day Dinner this past Friday. Astorino is expected to formally announce plans this week to run for governor against Cuomo on the Republican ticket.
Organized by Save the Southern Tier, Citizen Action of New York and Frack Action, protesters circled back and forth in front of the Water Street hotel carrying signs that read “Gastorino Go Home” and “Ban Fracking Now.” Shouting chants like “we demand a statewide ban” and “you can’t drink money,” protesters marched on the sidewalk for an hour.
Despite the protest running concurrently with the Lincoln Day Dinner, there were no altercations between the two groups.
In a group letter to Astorino, members of Citizen Action of New York and Save the Southern Tier responded to his video, citing environmental and economic concerns regarding the process.
“No, the scientific truth is that fracking cannot be done safely and it is increasingly contaminating water and becoming a public health disaster in states across the nation,” they wrote. “New York has wisely not allowed fracking, which is in line with the science and must continue in order to protect our water and health. ”
On a personal note, the authors wrote they would not risk allowing fracking.
“We live in the Southern Tier. We have our families here, neighbors and communities we love,” they wrote. “We are not sacrificial guinea pigs on whom you can ‘try’ fracking.”
Pipe Dream could not reach Astorino for comment.
Isaac Silberman-Gorn, co-founder of Save the Southern Tier and community organizer of Citizen Action of New York, said that Astorino’s opinions were based on “propaganda” by the gas companies.
“He is lying in the face of a growing body of scientific evidence and putting politics over our health,” Silberman-Gorn said.
Lina Riveros, a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering, interns with Citizen Action of New York under Silberman-Gorn. Riveros said her hands-on experience in Pennsylvania affected her opinion on fracking.
“We went to homes in Pennsylvania to visit people who were getting sick because their water was contaminated,” she said. “For a while they were given bottled water to make up for it, but eventually they just stopped providing water.”
Craig Stevens, a Pennsylvania resident, attended the protest. He brought a gallon of dark brown water labeled “Dimock, PA,” which he said was contaminated from fracking. According to Stevens, the water quality became even worse than the sample he brought.
“This is my neighbor’s water before it went bad, back in 2012,” Stevens said. “It went way worse after.”
Silberman-Gorn said fracking could have a long-lasting impact on the community.
“It’s our health on the line,” he said. “The gas companies are throwing our kids under the bus, and we’re not going to back down.”