Recently, small placards were posted near some of New York City’s public faucets with the Department of Environmental Protection emblem. The signs stated the possibility of water contamination and offered a simple test: place an open flame next to your faucet and if it ignites, your water isn’t safe.
The placards weren’t property of the DEP, but rather of the infamous Yes Men, a band of anti-corporate pranksters famous for once impersonating the World Trade Organization, and being mistaken for the global financial body. This time around, the Yes Men are taking on hydrofracking.
Hydrofracking is a process that uses a combination of pressurized water, chemicals and sand to blast beneath the earth’s surface and release pocketed natural gas. Debates have been boiling over in the past year as critics stress the danger of contaminating drinking water. A recent documentary, “Gasland”, explored the risk of hydrofracking operations in the West and showed a Colorado man set his tap water aflame.
In December 2010, shortly after the film’s New York release, former Governor David Paterson vetoed a measure, passed through both the State Assembly and Senate, which would have banned fracking in New York State for six months. Paterson cited the potential loss of jobs in the drilling field, but did ban horizontal fracking (thought to be more dangerous) while letting vertical fracking continue in the south portion of the state. The ban is set to expire on July 1, this year.
In April, after a series of articles in The New York Times contended that hydrofracking is far more dangerous than previously reported, State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) drafted a series of bills with two of his colleagues that would impose harsh restrictions on hydrofracking in the state and would take extra measures to protect drinking water.
“[Hydrofracking] is one of those issues that is out of sight but shouldn’t be out of mind,” Addabbo said. “We can look to the border of Pennsylvania to see some of the issues.”
Shortly after the Senators introduced their bills, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called on the federal government to conduct a full environmental review of regulations that would govern all natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin.
“Both the law and common sense dictate that the federal government must fully assess the impact of its actions before opening the door to gas fracking in New York,” said Schneiderman.
Addabbo said that New York should not let the moratorium on fracking lapse without the federal government’s report, as well as a forthcoming report from the Department of Environmental Conservation, before pushing further legislation.
“Between the DEC report and the report on the federal level, I think we should wait,” he said. “I’m not against drilling and I’m all for job creation too, but not at the expense of our drinking water. … I expect after this report come out, people who do drilling themselves will reconsider.”
On May 2, a large group of protesters visited Albany to protest hydrofracking. The NY says No to Fracking march was well organized and very vocal, said Addabbo. Signs read “No Water, No Jobs” and “Don’t Frack with New York.” One woman held a sign that read “No gain is worth the fracking risk.”
For more information on drinking water, New Yorkers can visit two very similar websites: one is the official DEP portal at nyc.gov; the other is more auspicious, but aesthetically identical, nyc-dep.org. The latter has a video that shows you how to light your water on fire, just in case you’re worried about contamination.
by David Harvey