Protestors Rally Against Hydrofracking in White Plains

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More than 100 environmentalists and opponents of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting natural gas, marched through the streets of White Plains on Saturday, ending with a rally at City Hall.
More than 100 environmentalists and opponents of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting natural gas, marched through the streets of White Plains on Saturday, ending with a rally at City Hall.

More than a hundred protestors marched to White Plains City Hall Saturday afternoon demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo prohibit hydraulic fracturing in New York State.

Carrying dozens of signs and chanting “Ban Fracking Now” and other slogans, the demonstrators who made the short walk from Renaissance Square to City Hall pointed to the mounting scientific data revealing that the extraction of natural gas through hydrofracking endangers air quality and water supplies.

“Fracking is inherently dangerous to the public health and the safety of our families,” said Jack Miller, head of Westchester’s New Yorkers Against Fracking, which organized the weekend protest. “Almost every week we hear horror stories of polluted air and contaminated drinking water, and that is directly linking fracking to adverse health effects. We want leadership on this issue, not just lip service.”

The state legislature imposed a moratorium several years ago while more studies were conducted to explore whether hydraulic fracturing can be done safely. Miller said while there’s still a de facto moratorium in place, there’s deep concern that pressures on lawmakers and the governor will lead to drilling despite the scientific findings.

Natural gas companies are looking for the state to grant permits to drill in five upstate counties along the state’s southern tier that borders Pennsylvania. Proponents have argued that hydraulic fracturing contributes toward greater energy independence for the United States. In New York State, drilling would also revive that upstate region’s moribund economy, advocates have contended.

However, opponents, including those who attended the weekend rally, said there has been hydraulic fracturing on the Pennsylvania side of the region for several years and the practice has devastated the area with rampant health and environmental problems. Protestors said they were worried that once the election is over, there would be a renewed push by the gas industry to move hydraulic fracturing forward in New York.

Zephyr Teachout, who was defeated by Cuomo in the Democratic primary for governor last month, said the influence of the industry’s lobbyists and money are ready to convince officials to support fracking and risk the state’s environment and agricultural resources. Teachout called on lawmakers to invest in promoting solar, wind and water, with the goal of eventually using only renewable energy.

“We can take this opportunity to make this (state) a center of 21st century renewable energy and energy technology to maintain our role of leading the world of what we have here,” she said.

Other protestors said that despite the moratorium and the failure by the natural gas industry to begin drilling, there has been no stop to the construction of infrastructure to deliver the gas and other fossil fuels. Pramilla Malick, a resident of Minisink, Orange County, said that a large energy compressor was built near her home and neighbors soon began getting sick from noxious fumes, forcing them to keep windows closed year round.

Malick said it would be worse if hydraulic fracturing is permitted.

“Fracking cannot be done safely,” Malick said. “It cannot be contained to a test area. Fracking is ruinous, the gas is poisonous and these poisons travel along with the pipeline.”

Many of the same people who attended Saturday’s rally are also opposing Spectra Energy Corporation’s Algonquin Pipeline, which would extend from Stony Point, Rockland County through portions of Putnam County and northern Westchester, including near Indian Point nuclear power plant. That pipeline would carry natural gas to the area.

Marian Rose, founder of the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition who participated in Saturday’s march, said the public must be wary because the pressure on lawmakers and the governor will be enormous.

“That’s where the money is and that’s where the power is,” Rose said of the natural gas industry. “(But) we’ve got the power of the people and we’re going to stand by it. We’re not going to give up.”




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