By Rita Yelda ~
Buffalo, NY – Concerned Buffalo residents joined community leaders, business owners and representatives from consumer, environmental and social justice groups today at a rally in support of a statewide ban on the highly controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
The rally targeted State Senator Mark Grisanti, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, who has yet to publicly support a ban on fracking in New York.
A broad-based array of community members gathered at Sen. Grisanti’s office to present the senator with 1,766 petition signatures from local residents and 102 letters from local organizations and businesses. Senator Grisanti was specifically urged to co-sponsor SB4220 and bring it up for a vote, as the bill has been languishing in his committee since last year. The bill would stop the NY Department of Environmental Conservation from issuing permits to allow drilling in the state. The rally came nine days before the end of the legislative session.
"In spite of overwhelming evidence that fracking cannot be done safely, the Senate has refused to act on legislation to protect New Yorkers from this dangerous, polluting practice. As the legislative session draws to a close, our elected officials need to know that their inaction will not go unnoticed," said Rita Yelda, organizer with Food & Water Watch.
"By ignoring his constituents and constituent groups, the senator is siding with influential oil and gas companies. Today I hope the Senator sees that we're sending the strong message that we all value our vital water resources and will not allow the oil and gas industry to risk these resources," added Jim Anderson, Vice President of the State Board for Citizen Action NY.
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Many of those who signed the petition, as well as several businesses that have asked Senator Grisanti to ban fracking, are located in the Southtowns of Buffalo, such as Hamburg and Orchard Park, which are part of his newly drawn district for this year's re-election.
"Senator Grisanti, seeing as you are a family man, a community member, a public servant, and Chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, you must have everyone's well-being at heart. The decisions you make today will affect generations to come. I recently heard you say 'I don't want to be the senator who poisons New York State.' Well, you know as well as I do that stricter regulations are going to prevent accidents or curtail corrupt practices that seem to be endemic to the drilling protocol. Show courage and leadership, Senator-- and support the ban bill," said Hamburg resident and local community organizer Kathleen Sambrotto.
Some of the small businesses that have signed on to ask Senator Grisanti to support a ban include Heart Animal Rescue & Adoption Team, Inc., Vito The Barber, Crazy 4 Bookz, Lexington Co-op, Gallery 164, Buffalo Tax Service, Hamburg Radiator, Jimmies Pizza Co., Filigree's Gallery & Boutique, Thorpe's Organic Family Farm, Squeaky Wheel, Chiacchia & Fleming, and Great Harvest Bread Co.
"As the owner and operator of the Pilates Loft, I signed on to support a ban on fracking because I am committed to the health and wellness of my clients. I am very concerned about the 600 chemicals used in fracking and the damage they cause to people and the environment. Known carcinogens like lead, uranium, formaldehyde, methanol, mercury belong nowhere near our water," said local business owner Beth Elkins.
Community, environmental, and social justice groups represented among the 102 ban-fracking letters presented to Grisanti included the Buffalo Board of Block Clubs, Forest District Civic Association, St. Joseph University Social Justice Committee, Canisius College Historical Society, Massachusetts Ave. Project, Rediscover Rivserside, PUSH Buffalo, Sierra Club Niagara Group, Occupy Buffalo, Coalition for Economic Justice, OUTSpoken for Equality, Citizen Action of WNY, WNY Peace Center, Working Families Party of WNY, and Green Party of WNY. Many religious organizations urged Sen. Grisanti to support a ban as well. Some of them include Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church, The Interfaith Peace Network, People of Peace at Pilgrim-St. Lukes U.C.C., Order of the Felician Sisters, Mary Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School, Riverside-Salem Congragation, and the Care for Creation Committee of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
"Sierra Club Niagara Group has signed on to ask the Senator to support a ban on fracking because this is New York State's most paramount environmental issue. These gas corporations have utter disregard for public health and the environmental legacy they leave our children. The worst part is that the energy needs of our country can be met now by sustainable green energy development and conservation," said Robert Ciesielski, NY Energy Chair of the Sierra Club.
"The WNY Peace Center supports a ban on fracking in New York, especially in view of recently published findings demonstrating the inevitable danger to our aquifers. Fluids used for fracking contain hundreds of toxic chemicals. A May 2012 peer-reviewed study states that underground migration of these toxic chemicals into aquifers can occur in as little as 10 years after a well is 'fracked'. This means the irreversible destruction of our aquifers is a never-ending risk if fracking begins," said Charley Bowman Interim Director of The WNY Peace Center.
"We've seen accidents, spills, contamination, and economic hardships caused by fracking play out far too often in neighboring states. Western New Yorkers deserve to have these ominous warnings acknowledged. The concern stems not only from environmental groups, but from the entire community. There's a lot on the line,” added Yelda.
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and potentially toxic chemicals deep underground to break up dense rock formations and release natural gas. The process can pollute water supplies when fracking chemicals leak into underground wells, or when accidents spill the fluids into rivers and streams. Since fracking began in states outside New York, there have been more than a thousand reports of water contamination. New studies link fracking-related activities to contaminated groundwater, air pollution, severe illness and reproductive problems in livestock, and human health problems.