The State of Fracking in NY

From the November-December 2011 PNL #809

Lindsey Speer

Despite ever-growing public opinion and organizing against hydrofracking, Governor Cuomo continues to fast-track the review process. In doing so, he undermines the very science he claims to be relying on to make the decision about whether or not to drill. He lifted the fracking moratorium in July and has pushed the understaffed NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to put out three massive documents for public review all at once. At the same time, the gas industry continues to pour millions of dollars into advertising and slick disinformation campaigns. Coincidence?

The Occupy movement and the Hydrofracking movement have common foes.  For example, Aubrey McClendon is the CEO of Chesapeake, which has leased significant portions of CNY.  His $975,000 annual salary, with an additional $3M in bonuses and other compensation places him not only in the 1% but in the 0.1% of income earners.  Behind the push to frack upstate NY are promises of wealth – but for who?  The game is rigged in favor of gas industry profits at the expense of local communities.

The gas industry keeps telling us that NY will benefit economically from fracking. But as Susan Christopherson of Cornell University has pointed out, gas drilling is a “boom and bust” industry. Even the industry-biased economic analysis in the SGEIS (Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement) acknowledges that local governments will face increased costs from road repairs, emergency services, etc. that will not be adequately compensated by local revenue. Once again the public picks up the costs, burdening taxpayers, while the elite few benefit.

Not only that, but hydrofracking has economic consequences that we are just beginning to comprehend. The excellent “Drilling Down” series in The New York Times has exposed the ponzi-scheme nature of the finances behind drilling and shown that lease agreements and mortgage terms are often in conflict, raising questions about the validity of many mortgages. Wineries and breweries across NY are calling for a fracking ban, seeing the widespread rural industrialization and possible catastrophic impacts to water as incompatible with the existing tourism and local food economies they depend upon. And the long term health costs to society are a huge unknown, as pointed out by 250 doctors and scientists in an October 5 letter to Governor Cuomo.

Even the editors of Scientific American are calling for a continued moratorium, until more is known about the environmental and health impacts of hydrofracking.

The tide is clearly turning against hydrofracking (including the recent Syracuse ban), but will it be enough to counter the immense financial and political clout of the gas industry? These next few months will determine who rules in NY—the people who live here or the corporations who want our natural resources. Let’s be sure we do all we can to stand up and be counted!

Lindsay is active with NOON and works as an organizer on environmental issues for the Onondaga Nation.


10 Reasons to Stop Fracking

1.   It continues our unsustainable fossil fuel dependence. If we want a future, we need an energy policy based on conservation and renewables.

2.    Spills, casing failures and other problems will contaminate our water. 

3.  There is no good way to dispose of the many millions of gallons of contaminated waste water.

4.  The air, noise and light pollution that result from these 24/7 operations will industrialize our rural landscapes.

5.  5,000-8,000 truck trips per well pad.

6.   One well pad every square mile = 77,000 wells across NYS in shale gas regions.

7.   Compulsory integration forces landowners who have chosen not to sign a lease to sell their gas, and lets “landmen” coerce people into signing leases.

8.   The societal costs of skyrocketing rents, destroyed roads and increased calls to emergency services are borne by the taxpayers, not the industry.

9.  It’s an example of “boom and bust” resource extraction that leaves communities worse off than when they began.

10. The DEC is at its lowest staffing levels in years and lacks the capacity to adequately protect the public.

–Jack Ramsden


Top 5 Ways to Fight Fracking

1.  Write the Governor

Physical letters—sent through the US mail (yes, people still do this)—make the most impact with the Governor, particularly handwritten ones. Tell him that you want a statewide ban on hydrofracking.

2.   Comment on SGEIS & Regulations

If the Governor does not ban hydrofracking statewide, these rules will help protect us. They need to be as strong as possible. Submit comments.

3.   Get involved with ShaleshockCNY

ShaleshockCNY is where we can all come together to discuss what’s happening—landowners, groups, concerned citizens, and experienced activists. Visit for the next meeting.

4. Join us in Binghamton on Nov. 17 to protest the fast-tracking of hydrofracking. For transport from Syracuse, contact Renee,

5. Advocate for Town Bans  and Regulations

Towns can limit hydrofracking within their borders through zoning and road use laws, and many are doing so when pushed by their citizens. Has your town?