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Guv cand Hawkins (G-NY) Calls for Permanent Hydrofracking Ban

The only way that the Green Party can regain ballot status in NY is to get 50,000 votes for their Governor candidate in 2010. This opportunity comes only once every four years, and it only applies to the Governor’s race. Gaining ballot status will enable the Green Party to run more peace candidates, more single-payer candidates, more anti-fracking candidates, and more sustainable energy candidates. The last time that the Green Party of New York State had ballot status it set the record for running the most Green candidates of any state.

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party of New York State candidate for Governor, called for a permanent ban on hydrofracking for natural gas.

Hawkins said that various moratorium proposals being pushed by the Democrats were primarily designed to provide them with political cover in this fall’s elections. SUNY Binghamton was supposed to be the site of one our 4 EPA national hearings on hydrofracking but SUNY officials forced the hearing to move at the last moment to the Syracuse Convention Center; county officials then asked for the hearing to be postponed due to concerns about handling several planned rallies in conjunction with the hearing.

Hawkins pointed out that both the Governor’s office and federal Energy officials have stated they are looking at how to “better regulate” hydrofracking, not ban it. The Democratic governor candidate, Andrew Cuomo, recently told reporters in Binghamton that he believes “gas drilling can be practiced safely,” and touted its economic benefits.

In stating his support for a ban, Hawkins said,

We should instead focus our energy policy and investments on the rapid transition to a safe, clean energy system based on conservation, efficiency and renewables. As the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us, ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ inevitably means ‘Spill, Baby, Spill.’ Using hydraulic fracturing of rock formations in gas drilling results in the contamination of water, air and soil. And accidents inevitably happen, which result in major spills that can extend contamination far from the well site.

Hydrofracking means injecting toxic-laden fresh water and sand at extremely high pressure into rock layers to shatter the stone and release the gas. Each frack injects 2 to 9 million gallons of water with 20,000 to 90,000 gallons of toxic chemicals. Hawkins detailed a host of problems with hydrofracking that have occurred in thirty states, including

  • Pollution: Contaminated drinking water aquifers and wells, reservoirs, lakes and streams. Toxic waste ponds full of the waste fluids that come back up the wellbore; there could be up to 40,000 of these ponds across the New York State if full-scale fracking is permitted.
  • Accidents: Well blowouts, fires and explosions; Drilling fluid waste pond leaks and spills
  • Property Damage: Natural gas can seep into water systems and homes to pollute kitchen faucet water so it can be lit on fire, and cause houses and drinking water wells to explode. Banks often wont provide mortgages for property with leases for fracking.
  • Disease: Residents of drilling areas can become chronically ill due to the seepage of carcinogens and neurotoxins into the air, water and soil. Repeated or prolonged exposure can cause liver, heart, blood and brain damage as well as leukemia and other cancers.

“With a failure rate between 2 and 8 percent, hydrofracking poses an unacceptable risk to NYSs abundant water supplies, a natural resource that sustains our communities and is the states most important natural resource base for sustainable economic development in the agriculture, manufacturing and tourism sectors,” said Hawkins.

With the pending November elections, some state Democrats claim they are protecting the environment by putting forth a moratorium bill, which has passed the State Senate though not the State Assembly. Hawkins pointed out that such moratorium proposals are primarily political posturing, since a moratorium is already in place while the state Department of Environmental Conservation does an environmental review. The potential slight extension of such moratorium until May 15, 2011 has little practical effect, especially as it covers a time of year when drilling would not be taking place due to frost restrictions.

Other Democrats have pushed for a ban on hydrofracking only in the NYC watershed. The Greens support a statewide ban since everyone’s drinking water should be protected.

Hawkins said that it was embarrassing that SUNY Binghamton and Onondaga County officials had backed out of their agreement to host the public hearing, allegedly over concerns about the size of potential protests.

“The two major parties have no problems sending American troops overseas to die allegedly in the name of expanding democracy, but somehow they can’t handle the thought that Americans want to exercise their first amendment rights here in New York. Having tens of thousands of people partying at football or basketball games or heavy metal concerts is ok, but a few thousand people discussing the merits hydrofracking is too hot to handle,” stated Hawkins.

Cecile Lawrence, one of the Green Party candidates for US Senate, has been active in the movement against hydrofracking and had been scheduled to speak at the Binghamton EPA hearing. She noted that many local activists suspect the heavy hand of an outside source in terrifying Binghamton University, “already very susceptible to squashing free speech and in placating local dominant politicians.” SUNY Binghamton officials have refused to cite any specific source for their crowd estimate of 8,000 and was quoted in the local paper as describing their source vaguely “special interest groups, law enforcement and governmental agencies, and other interested parties.”

“The NYS DEC held hearings in various parts of NYS, especially in upstate, including in Broome County and Chemung County, potential ground zeros for fracking. I have not seen a single report of any violence, nor even an altercation. Where did the idea of violence come from? Everyone was well-behaved and respectful. At none of the many meetings I’ve attended and seen videos of no screaming and yelling has occurred. It seems very likely that the gas drilling companies exaggerated and vilified those who wish to drink clean water, breathe clean air, eat food from clean soil, not be subjected to the noise of thumper trucks, acoustic testing including underground explosions, kleig lights all night, water and frack waste trucks tearing up rural roads, etc., etc.” said Ms. Lawrence in a prepared statement.

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