“Not One Well!”
On Monday February 4, as Governor Cuomo faced a decision to allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New York State, hundreds of protesters went to Albany, NY to stand against any vote to allow it to pass.
(This trip to Albany was a follow-up action to the last demonstration on January 9th, which you can read about here.)
The buses arrived at around 10am and all demonstrators went straight to the hearing taking place where the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was testifying on the safety of the energy extraction procedure.
Arriving at the hearing.
The full crowd at the hearing.
Here is a short video of some of the hearing.
This is a dialogue from the video:
“Questioner: Will the Health Impact Assessment…Analysis that you do be open to the public. Will it be…Will the public have an opportunity to comment?
Commissioner: Sure, it will be made available to the public.
Questioner: And an opportunity for the public to comment…
Commissioner: We’ll have to see when we get it. (Crowd groans) It will be made available to the public and I’m sure that people will comment on it.”
The hearing lasted until noon. As it proceeded the assemblymen/women, senators and others present questioned the Commissioner about the thoroughness of the research done by the DEC on the safety of fracking. They also questioned the Commissioner on the DEC’s performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Some representatives whom the DEC Commissioner testified to.
As the demonstrators had traveled to protest fracking they were largely silent when the discussion dealt with Hurricane Sandy. They were not silent however when the Commissioner was asked about fracking.
At first when the Commissioner was criticized on his department’s research into hydraulic fracturing the crowd would cheer for the official who offered the criticism. After several bouts of cheering however, the moderator of the hearing spoke directly to the crowd saying, in similar words, “Listen, I don’t think there’s anyone in this room who doesn’t know why you’re here today. Please do not cheer as it slows down the hearing and takes time away from the official asking questions which are in your favor and support your position.”
Once the moderator said this the crowd changed tactics. They did not cheer anymore. Instead they hissed when the DEC Commissioner said something vague or unsatisfactory, or they threw their hands in the air and wiggled their fingers to show approval of a criticism the Commissioner received. Mind you, though this wiggling of fingers may originate (in its usage that day) from Occupy Wall Street, this action was not in an Occupy action. Nevertheless, some forms of communication are still quite effective.
Showing approval of a criticism.
A demonstrator gives a passionate thumbs down to a comment from the DEC Commissioner.
Throughout the hearing there were a few very peculiar responses from the Commissioner of the DEC. Several times, when the Commissioner was asked something similar to the question which was quoted above, the Commissioner’s default answer was a consistent “I’m sure they will comment on it.” To which the Commissioner was always asked to speak to the public’s ability to comment more specifically.
It needs to be very clear how different the responses of “Yes, the public will have the opportunity to comment;” and “I’m sure they will comment on it” are. The first possible answer is very direct and honest with the question. The second possible answer sounds extremely subversive as if to say, “Yes, I’m sure they will comment but this isn’t our concern.”
Even though the protesters did contain their excitement, much more than before they were reprimanded by the moderator, here and there a few spoke their minds to absurd comments. At one point one audience member called out “Dead cows don’t produce milk!” Overall though the crowd was extremely respectful and managed to contain their passions until the end.
When the hearing was concluded the crowd instantly started chanting from their seats.
The crowd chants “NOT ONE WELL!! NOT ONE WELL!!”
The crowd as they chanted after the hearing.
The crowd then left the hearing and proceeded to regroup for a march over to a rally in Governor Cuomo’s office building. Here is a video of the regroup.
Now the march made its way to the Governor’s office.
Here is some more marching.
The march continued up an escalator and further to the rally point.
A demonstrator at the rally point.
Here is video of an aerial shot as more of the crowd ascended the stairs on which the rally was about to take place.
In the middle of the crowd on the stairs.
Here is a video walking around at the top of the staircase hearing the echoes and walking past those looking down at the rest of the crowd.
Here is video from the press side of the steps looking across to the rally side.
Ex-Philly Police Capt. Ray Lewis stands with the crowd against hydraulic fracturing.
The speeches now began.
Esteemed environmental biologist, activist, and a founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York, Sandra Steingraber, spoke next.
Ms. Steingraber gave a very moving speech which centered around decisions. She talked about her time as an AIDS activist and the uncertainties facing the public (when the disease first became known) of whether or not HIV was related to AIDS. She explained how even back then, with the uncertainty of the source of AIDS, she still taught people how to put condoms on bananas. The idea was to ensure safety instead of risking it hoping for more optimistic findings.
“When lives are at stake you don’t wait for absolute proof to protect people.”
“You move people out of harm’s way first, and then you let the scientific wheels of proof-making grind slowly on. That’s a lesson that we learned too late with lead paint, and with asbestos, with Love Canal, and with the Hudson River. But it is not too late for fracking.
Governor Cuomo, we don’t know everything about the health effects of fracking, but emerging data gives us reason for concern. The hasty secretive review now being compiled by your DOH and [DEC], is being conducted without the normative protocols or public participation.”
“The people of New York deserve and demand a real health study, not a last minute improvised book report.”
“New York’s Health Professions demand a proper, comprehensive, health impact statement as a precondition for making this decision. And until that study is done communities where people live and work should not be proving grounds for industrial experiments.”
She closed her speech with the following statement:
“Governor Cuomo, when I tried to engage your Commissioner Joe Martens in a vigorous debate for his testimony, your sergeant of arms threatened me with arrest.”
“So let me tell you this: I’m a cancer survivor. I am more afraid of my next MRI than I am of your sergeant of arms. I am more afraid of poisoned water than I am of the inside of a jail cell. I am more scared for my son’s life on a fracked up planet than I am with any threat of arrest. I am not afraid.”
The last sentence “I am not afraid” inspired the next chant. “We’re Not Afraid! We’re Not Afraid!”
The next speaker was described as a champion of the anti-fracking movement in the State legislature. The sponsor of the bill to ban fracking in New York State, Senator Tony Avella.
Senator Tony Avella, sponsor of the bill to ban fracking in New York State.
Next we heard from Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal
Following Assemblywoman Rosenthal was the director of the Academy Award nominated documentary Gasland, Josh Fox
Josh Fox, Director of the Academy Award nominated documentary, Gasland.
His speech, though very simple referenced many of the people he’d met as he filmed Gasland who were victims of fracking.
The most disturbing story he told was of a woman who was afraid to shower with the light on for fear of the water catching fire due to a spark.
To watch the movie Gasland, click here.
The next speaker was the founder of the new Southern Tier anti-fracking network “Save The Southern Tier,” Logan Adsit
The founder of Save The Southern Tier, Logan Adsit
Of the many things she said during her speech one statistic which stood out was one from the gas industry’s own data “6% of well casings fail at the time of drilling, and 50% over 30 years.”
The next woman who spoke was Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton. Though I do not have video feed of her doing so, (stream signal was weak during the hearing) Assemblywoman Lifton was one of the harsher members of an already critical panel to whom the Commissioner of the DEC testified to earlier that day.
Assembly woman Barbara Lifton
Actor Mark Ruffalo spoke next.
Following Mark Ruffalo was the grandson of Mahatma Ghandi, Arun Ghandi.
This concluded the speakers during this part of the demonstration. However, a few media personnel found interviews with some of the speakers.
I caught a few seconds of this one. Senator Tony Avella explains how while at first the land to be fracked on may be worth something to those intent on drilling, after drilling the overall property value drops to zero.
The demonstrators proceed down the stairs to the next rally point, outside Gov. Cuomo’s office.
Upon arriving at the rally point near Governor Cuomo’s office this was the scene. Mind you there was a very weak connection. As such the clip here is audio only. At roughly 0:23 is when the speaker begins. (Unfortunately, due to poor quality signal there is no way to skip around during this clip)
A photo of the woman speaking in the audio clip.
Of the things mentioned in this clip more of Gov. Cuomo’s proposed plan was explained. Gov. Cuomo intends to drill 40 Demonstration wells in the Southern Tier under the strictest regulation. The demonstrators reject this idea in favor of a thorough study of the potential risks prior to any drilling at all.
The Reverend White was the next person to speak. He was in Albany, with the demonstration representing religious leaders from across the spectrum and he led the group in a prayer.
The Reverend White.
The next person to speak was Gregowin Weaver.
Following Mr. Weaver was Arun Ghandi again.
Next, David Braun, from New Yorkers Against Fracking, spoke. When he finished he and Sandra Steingraber read the pledge to stand against fracking.
David Braun, of New Yorkers Against Fracking
The pledge to stand against fracking is held.
The pledge was now read in a call-and-response manner with crowd participation. The preamble ends at the 1:31 mark.
David and Sandra read the pledge with fists raised.
The pledge included the following line:
“Hence, if Governor Cuomo permits high-volume, horizontal, hydraulic fracturing in any part of New York State I pledge to join with others to engage in nonviolent acts of protest; including demonstrations and other nonviolent actions as my conscience leads me.”
Arun Ghandi signs the pledge.
Now the day of action was at its climax. First another prayer was recited. Once the prayer was completed water was collected in a large glass vase from the canteens people had brought to the action. As the water was collected Bethany Yarrow, daughter of Peter Yarrow (from the group Peter, Paul, and Mary), led the crowd in song.
Outside Governor Cuomo’s office.
The crowd by the door to Gov. Cuomo’s office.
After a few minutes a representative from Governor Cuomo’s office was sent to meet the crowd. First, the vase of water was given to the representative, then Arun Ghandi personally handed the representative the pledge he had just signed.
Arun Gandi with a representative from Gov. Cuomo’s office.
This concluded the demonstration and the crowd dispersed afterward.
It is important to understand the severity of the situation. In Philadelphia a water emergency has been declared as a result of fracking. Why would they have to declare a water emergency? The energy extraction procedure, which was developed by Halliburton, got exempted from the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Clean Drinking Water Acts thanks to the efforts of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Why would it need to be exempted from those acts? There are toxic chemicals in the fluids used to explode the rock. When they explode the rock the toxins used remain in the ground and end up in the underground water supply. This affects everything and the area becomes virtually unlivable due to contamination. If the procedure weren’t exempted from the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Clean Drinking Water Acts it would probably never pass them in the first place.
Why is it unlivable though? Isn’t that extreme? No. We use water for the most basic of things. Water is used for growing food, to grazing cattle, to showering, to cooking, to drinking, etc. Water is the most basic building block of life and the energy extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing destroys this building block.
As a sign of growth and swift progress this article from July 30, 2012, in ecowatch.org states “More than 1,000 businesses, from breweries to architectural firms to auto repair shops, have signed on to a statement opposing fracking, citing multiple threats to their businesses.
Businesses fear the water, soil and air contamination that accompany fracking. For operations like brewing, farming and wine-making, this contamination could lead to a significant decline in product quality and value. Farmers are also concerned for the health of their livestock; Cornell researchers studied six Marcellus Shale states and found many cases of seizures and even deaths of farm animals near drilling and fracking operations.”
In this video from the hearing in the morning the DEC Commissioner is asked about the DEC’s responsiveness in reading the numbers of comments received thus far. What is most impressive from this dialogue is the number of comments pertaining to fracking which had already been received.
Asked of the Commissioner of the DEC “Prior to that you had received about 80,000 comments…and it took you a year analyze those 80,000 comments, and I understand there’s about 200,000 comments that have come in since December.”
There are numerous petitions one could sign to show support against fracking in New York State. Also, you can text “FRACK” to 69866. One could also call their assemblyman/woman, or Governor Cuomo himself and speak against fracking.
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