Long Islanders rally against hydrofracking in New York State

December 16, 2011
By Karen Rubin
Long Island Populist Examiner

Long Islanders gathered to send a message to Albany that New York State should ban hydraulic fracturing altogether, rather than parse new rules to unleash natural gas extraction companies to dig some 70,000 wells upstate.

Representatives from Food & Water Watch, Grassroots Environmental Education, Reach Out America and other organizations sharply criticized proposed standards as failing to protect the state's residents from the highly polluting method of gas drilling.

"Fracking poses a threat to Long Island's air, food and water," said Sam Bernhardt, a Long Island native who works for Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer group that supports a ban on fracking "There are safer alternatives to natural gas, but there are no alternatives to water. We urge Governor Cuomo and Long Island legislators to put our health before industry profits and ban fracking."

New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, a member of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, said she attended numerous public hearings on hydrofracking. "I remain with a nagging uncertainty about the safety of the process. Certainly the decisions made about the drilling will be New York's environmental legacy. The New York State Legislature is poised to take a leadership role in recognizing that the health and welfare of its citizens comes before profit."

Schimel raised concerns about the contamination of the water supply, increased traffic and wear and tear on infrastructure, and how the contaminated water that is injected will be treated, especially when the companies maintain that the list of chemicals used is proprietary (secret). She raised concerns about how flooding that has occurred upstate would impact, and even earthquakes.

"What about leakage from underground pipes? The industry claims they are safe, double bounded. But for the first time, the EPA linked water pollution with hydrofracking in Wyoming, most likely it is seeping up in the well. It flies in the face of longstanding claims that this is a safe process."

Another concern for Long Islanders is property taxes. But so far, there has been no study on the impact on values of property close to the wells.

"And when you have a pool that is filled with waste, who will clean up that mess 40 years from now?"

"Many Long Islanders feel that they are safely removed from the proposed fracking areas upstate, but that is not true," stated Patti Wood, Executive Director of Grassroots Environmental Education. "We already live in a non-attainment area - meaning that the air quality does not meet federal standards - and air pollution from fracking operations can travel hundreds of miles" and Long Island is downwind. "In addition, some of Long Island's water treatment plants, like Glen Cove, have been identified as potential sites for dumping toxic radioactive flowback fluid (or wastewater) that comes back up the well with the gas."

In addition to the risks that this processing would pose, this means that dozens of diesel trucks would be making the trek from upstate to Long Island, carrying toxic chemicals and radioactive materials. Each well, she said, requires 1000 diesel trips, and the state is poised to issue permits for more than 70,000 wells.

Trucks, all running on diesel, operate 24/7, and diesel emissions have been linked to asthma and cancers. "The EPA has said there is no safe level of exposure to diesel exhaust."

She also contradicted any claim that the processes are "safe." "Accidents happen. They promise, but they can never guarantee," as demonstrated with the Exxon-Mobil spill in Montana; the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant failure, triggered by the earthquake and tsunami.

She also countered the claim that the natural gas would benefit New Yorkers or Americans, easing prices or dependence on foreign sources, noting that the companies have applied for export licenses to ship the natural gas overseas. "Dick Cheney made sure they were fully exempted from Clean Water, Clean Air and Safe Drinking Water regulations."

"Cuomo, by himself will decide. Governor Cuomo has an obligation to protect this state and its citizens and be the first governor in the nation to say no to the oil and gas industries," Wood said.

"The damage cannot be undone once it has started."

"I met [New York State] Senator Jack Martins a short while ago, and he told me that if I had any concerns I should contact him," said Patty Katz, chair of Reach Out America's Green Committee. "Well, Senator, we have some major concerns about fracking."

"As Jews, we are sensitive to the ethical implications of hydrofracking," stated Rabbi Lina Zerbarini, Director, Weinberger Center for Jewish Life and Learning at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center. "We value life above all else, and place limits on what we are allowed to do for profit. We are obligated to protect the poor and the vulnerable who suffer first from unregulated exploitation of natural resources. We recognize our responsibility to safeguard the earth for our children and grandchildren The expansion of hydrofracking cannot be aligned with these values."

Afnan Gilani, President of the Long Island Teen Environmental Activists said, "The purpose of LITEA is to educate others on some of the most prevalent environmental toxins, what products contain them, and how exactly these chemicals are contributing to increasing rates of diseases in humans Some of the most recent emerging trends in disease patterns can relate to environmental exposures.

"The public health offices of New York State have deemed methods used to obtain natural gasses unsafe. More than 25% of the chemicals used in natural gas operations have been known to have adverse effects on humans, which include mutations, brain damage, birth defects and cancer. This detrimental process is hydrofracking. Three of the known carcinogens used in hydrofracking are benzene, formaldehyde, and naphthalene. These chemicals are so toxic that even the slightest concentration of them exposed to our air or ground water supply can pollute our environment enough to cause both short term and long-term health effects on humans. On behalf of LITEA we would like to call on Governor Cuomo of New York State to ban hydrofracking."

Laura Weinberg, President of the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, pointed to a report released last week by the Institute of Medicine on the connection between breast cancer and the environment that linked benzene and ethylene oxide with breast cancer. "Benzene and ethylene oxide, which are known carcinogens, are used in the fracking process." she said that in Texas, breast cancer rates were raised significantly in areas near fracking sites, while rates declined in the rest of the state.

"With breast cancer rates already high on Long Island and in New York State, what kind of legacy are we leaving for our children by allowing fracking chemicals that are linked to breast cancer to be released into our environment? One out of three women and one out of two men will be diagnosed with cancer. Is this the legacy to leave?"

"Every one here knows or knew someone with breast cancer," said Karen Miller, with the Huntington Breast Cancer Coalition. "We've said all along that cancer is not caused by genes alone - if the air we breathe is contaminated, how in the world can we reduce the risk? How in the world can we protect our daughters? We hear over and over again again that we can reduce toxic exposure by changing persoanl behavior. Is that enough? No!

"We live in a world that wants to address illness after we're exposed to chemicals that cause illness This ban offers us an opportunity to protect, to prevent further exposure to cancer-causing chemicals that continue to plague all our families, our children, our communities. We call out to Governor Cuomo to ban hydrofracking in New York State.

"Years ago, Long Islanders raised their voices and demanded more resources for environmental studies. These studies have proved a cause and effect relationship between toxic chemicals and the onset of disease Now is the time for regulatory action, regulatory protection."

"As the current and future inhabitants of this planet, it is our obligation to maintain and protect what is naturally ours," said Jason Adesman, a junior at Roslyn High School. "Not only will these harmful effects, such as the contamination of our water supply, the deforestation of areas upstate and the release of greenhouse gases affect our own lives as humans, but it will also cause significant damage to the entire environment If this practice is allowed in our state, it opens the door for other states and regions to adopt it, and our duty as New Yorkers is to set the example and hopefully a precedent and have it stop here."

Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch said, "We are up against an industry with the ability to spend millions on advertising. But the good news is we have truth on our side. We are organizing across Long Island, building a movement to take on the oil and gas industry.

"There are safer alternatives to natural bas, but no alternative to safe water. Ban fracking now."

Comments can be submitted to the Department of Conservation (DEC) and letters to Governor Cuomo’s office through January 11. 

To submit comments online, go to the DEC website:

You can also send a letter to:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor of New York State

New York State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224 

Facebook Campaign:  A Million Fracking Letters

See also:

Hundreds of New Yorkers turn out for DEC hearing to oppose hydraulic fracturing and slideshow

Hydrofracking Upstate poses health risk to Long Islanders, local opponents say