By Rita Yelda
On Dec. 17, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made history when he listened to the science and banned hydrofracking in New York, protecting the health and safety of residents over the profits of the oil and gas industry. The governor found the environmental and health risks of fracking to be too great. The administration’s decision to ban fracking protects public health, our water, our air, our farms and agriculture products, our tourism and so much more from being negatively impacted by a toxic drilling industry.
This ban on fracking in New York is the story of tens of thousands of activists who tirelessly fought over many years through demonstrations, local fracking bans, petitioning, calling and following the governor himself. New York’s anti-fracking movement is comprised of everyday individuals across the state. This grass-roots movement can find its roots in Buffalo, the first municipality in the state to ban fracking and fracking waste. This statewide movement grew in part thanks to the growing body of science showing that fracking poses significant health and environmental risks.
In the 184-page report that led to New York’s ban, the New York State Department of Health examined findings from multiple studies conducted across the country. Major concerns they identified included respiratory health issues such as asthma and breathing issues, drinking water contamination, earthquakes, methane leakage, soil contamination and increased heavy truck traffic and car accidents. Their findings also included health effects on residents near active fracking sites, such as nausea, abdominal pain, nosebleeds and headaches.
One study examined from Colorado found that those who lived closest to natural gas development sites had a 30 percent increase in congenital heart conditions and a 100 percent increase of developing neural tube defects in babies.
The gas industry creates a false dichotomy that ties fracking and job creation together, but there are always other ways to create jobs. Our health, on the other hand, is not replaceable.
This year at Cuomo’s State of the State address in Albany Jan. 7, we will be thanking the governor and also encouraging renewable energy expansion in New York, so that future energy needs will never give the toxic fossil fuel industry a foot in our door.
Cuomo exercised the precautionary principle by banning fracking in New York, impacting generations to come. We’re going to Albany to thank him, and we also look forward to making New York the renewable energy capital of the United States, leading the nation to a healthier future.
Rita Yelda, of Buffalo, is the Western New York organizer for Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food.