A rally against fracking was held Thursday in Albany's West Capitol Park. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports on an issue most New Yorkers thought was resolved back in 2014.
Protect Orange County's Randy Hurst kicked off the event. Rallygoers represented a cross-section of activists and environmentalists from up and down the Hudson Valley and beyond. They gathered to ask Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation to deny the last permit needed to operate the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) fracked gas plant in Orange County.
If you were Cuomo, this was a tough crowd, even though the Democratic governor was far from the capitol on this afternoon. George Billard is with SCRAM (Sullivan County Residents Against Millennium). "President Cuomo. I bet you like the sound of that. Not you. Cuomo. But if you are serious about making that happen, or even running for governor again, we need to talk. We stood with you when you embraced science and banned fracking. That was smart policy. But now, the gas industry is trying to undo all your good work by laying down fracked gas infrastructure. You cannot allow that to happen."
Activists say the plant, which would require between 100 and 150 fracked gas wells from Pennsylania, would greatly endanger New York's air and water, creating "a climate emergency." "Laying down infrastructure that latches us to fracked gas for the next 30 to 40 years is a ruinous policy, and it makes your commitment to the Paris Agreement a lie."
Environmental activist Bill McKibben: "That thing's gonna be there, 50, 60 years from now. Is there anybody in this state who thinks that 50 or 60 years from now fracked natural gas is going to be the fuel of choice for power? Of course not. We're already at the point where solar and wind are the cheapest way to provide power."
Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum says her group is fighting 15 fracked gas projects. Cuomo wasn't the only elected official on activists' chopping block. "Just last week, Senator Schumer had a chance to stand against to stand against appointing two new pro-industry commissioners to FERC. To say NO to FERC’s rubber-stamp approval. What did Senator Schumer Say? Nothing. Not a word. Not a single thing. Total silence. No words of objection or concern came from Senator Schumer or his office."
Schumer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
There were concerned words from area state Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, who showed up to the surprise and delight of rallygoers. "We need New York to lead, and I don't think we can do enough to keep reiterating how we need to lead. The work has got to be done in the state. I am with you, I could not be more supportive of your effort and I want to continue to work with you. This has become one of my top issues."
CPV spokesperson Chapin Fay emailed WAMC a statement, which in part says: "With 800 construction workers pushing hard, this facility WILL be up and running in February. By bringing a new source of power to the region, it will fuel economic growth in the lower Hudson Valley and help meet reliability needs for New York State.
We have strong bipartisan support from local, county, state and federal officials, as well as strong civic and business community support. We don't have this small group of activists, whose main objection is to fossil fuels and not this plant in particular. That's their right. We fully expect to be operating next year. "
Responding to a request for comment, DEC spokesperson Erica Ringewald says New York is a driving force when it comes to protecting natural resources. "Under Governor Cuomo, New York has nation-leading climate change policies, including ramping up renewable energy production through strategic investments and setting stringent safeguards to ensure public health and the environment are protected from the potential impact of proposed pipelines and fossil-fuel infrastructure projects.”
A DEC decision on the CPV is expected by end of August.