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Western New Yorkers to join large anti-fracking rally

About 100 Western New Yorkers were scheduled to board buses headed to Albany today. Their mission: to demonstrate against hydraulic fracturing and to call for New York’s elected officials to do more with clean energy.

A number of local groups – from PUSH Buffalo and Communications Workers of America District 1, to the Western New York Peace Center and Occupy Buffalo – will add their voices to those converging on the state capitol for a rally that organizers say will be the largest anti-fracking rally ever in Albany.

“It really speaks volumes that so many people are interested in this topic,” said Rita Yelda of Buffalo, an organizer with Food and Water Watch and New Yorkers Against Fracking.

Yelda has attended rallies in Albany before, including the last one – an anti-fracking rally held there to correspond with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s State of the State address in January. More than 100 groups are co-sponsoring today’s rally at the capitol, Yelda said.

“We’re really expecting the numbers for this rally to surpass the State of the State,” she said.

While speaking out against the process of fracking – which involves pumping millions of gallons of water combined with chemicals into the earth at high pressure to release gas from underground rock – those heading to Albany also plan to call for the state to take a number of measures to enhance renewable energy efforts.

That includes the passage of the Solar Jobs Act, as well as an extension of the moratorium on fracking that was passed in the Assembly earlier this year but has yet to pass in the Senate.

“On the renewable energy side, we think New York State is missing the boat by not getting more involved,” said Bob Ciesielski, chairman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group and chairman of the energy committee of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The Solar Jobs Act would codify the governor’s pledge to invest in solar power over the next decade, Ciesielski said.

New York and the United States lag far behind what other countries are doing in terms of renewable energy, he said.

Instead, New York remains focused on fossil fuels, the use of which contributes to climate change, Ciesielski said.

“We’re hoping that the governor and the Legislature realize the potential of renewable energy and how much it could mean to this state,” he said. “We could become a leader.”

Last September, Cuomo tapped Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to conduct an analysis that would help determine whether the state will allow high-volume fracking. Cuomo has been criticized for what many see as a lack of transparency in the state Health Department’s review.