“I love my New York water.”
That’s what a group of New York-based actors are saying in a new video that aims to keep the state’s drinking water safe from the dangers of fracking. NRDC, with a coalition of environmental and health advocacy organizations, today launched the new online video, which is narrated by Ethan Hawke, and also features actors Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Amy Ryan, Josh Charles and Nadia Dajani.
This new video comes at a critical time here. There is new evidence that Governor Cuomo is dangerously rushing forward to allow new fracking in New York before allowing sufficient time for officials to undertake a full environmental assessment of its risks. And the state legislative session is drawing to a close with important unfinished fracking-related business.
In an apparent effort to appease the gas industry, Governor Cuomo sent a memo to his Department of Environmental Conservation at the end of May, directing them to deliver their environmental review of fracking in the state no later than July 1st. While the governor’s memo also contains some distinctly positive aspects – including a directive that DEC evaluate a recent major blowout of a Chesapeake Energy well next-door in Bradford County, PA, and other fracking-related accidents in Pennsylvania and elsewhere – its evident intention to rush the state’s crucial, potentially groundbreaking review of the environmental and health impacts of proposed new gas development is extremely troubling. DEC Commissioner Joe Martens has been clear that he is taking his charge to fully assess the risks very seriously, and he and his staff deserve all the time and resources necessary to do that job right.
Holding DEC to an arbitrary – and unnecessarily tight – deadline doesn’t do anyone any favors, and enhances the chances that the state will not sufficiently protect its residents from the dangers associated with fracking. (This does not even provide nearly enough time to address the multiple fatal deficiencies in an initial review that was thrown out last year because it was so woefully inadequate.)
Instead, the state should be taking all the time necessary to review this new, complicated, and potentially very dangerous industrial process before allowing it to proceed here. The risks of doing otherwise – including jeopardizing the safe drinking water for millions of New Yorkers, across the state and including all of NYC – are far too great.
Meanwhile, on the legislative front, legislators still have the opportunity – though time is running out! – to enact three important measures before they adjourn on June 20th. With indications from Governor Cuomo that he may rush through the review process by the end of the month, it is more important than ever for the legislature to do what they can to protect New Yorkers and pass these bills.
Specifically: The first bill would close a gaping loophole by classifying fracking waste as hazardous. This would require highly toxic fracking waste products to be treated as all other hazardous waste, no longer allowing it to be disposed of like garden variety trash in the state’s landfills or household wastewater at treatment facilities. The second would give DEC new authority to regulate water withdrawals from the states’ rivers and streams for use in fracking and other industrial activities in order to ensure they are protected in the process. And third, but by no means the least, a bill that just passed the Assembly on Monday would issue a moratorium on new fracking permits upstate for another year (until June 1, 2012). In light of the governor’s attempts to speed drilling along, this measure is critically important to at least give DEC this much more time to evaluate the risks.
Now is the time for Governor Cuomo and our elected officials in Albany to hear New Yorkers loud and clear. We’re relying on them to protect not only our drinking water – but our health, clean air, property values, landscapes and community character – from fracking. Rushing the environmental review is not only foolish, but unpopular.
Our deepest thanks go out to Ethan, Mark, Zoe, Amy, Josh and Nadia for lending their voices to stand up for New York’s world-class drinking water, and drawing attention to this serious environmental and health issue that’s confronting not just New Yorkers, but Americans across the country. We owe it to the rest of the U.S. to get it right here, and set the national standard for how to protect residents from fracking. But that will take time – and New York certainly can’t do it justice in less than a month.