ALBANY, NY — According to a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to hydraulic fracturing, the more than 200,000 comments delivered regarding proposed new regulations constitute a record. During the last comment period regarding fracking, some 66,000 were submitted.
Many boxes were delivered to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in Albany on January 11, in a sort-of ceremony, complete with police escort and a celebrity-topped press conference.
At the press conference, Yoko Ono, who owns a home in Delaware County and who recently founded the group Artists Against Fracking, praised Governor Andrew Cuomo for the environmental initiatives he outlined in his State of the State address on January 9. In that address, he said that climate change and promoting alternative energy were important goals. Ono said, “With clean energy development and by saving energy, as the governor has outlined, there is no reason to risk the dirty energy of fracking.”
Ono’s son, Sean Lennon, also addressed the assembled reporters and television crews. He noted that the company named Halliburton is heavily involved in the fracking process, and that former Vice President Dick Cheney had a long relationship with Halliburton. Cheney, Lennon said, helped to get the fracking process exempted from the Clean Drinking Water Act and Clean Air Act. If it’s not safe enough for those two laws, “then it should not be safe enough for New York State.”
Jill Wiener, from Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, also spoke at the news conference, and said that the proposed regulations were written based on a false premise—that drilling and fracking would “promote economic activity.” But she said, “Economist Dr. Jannette Barth, with absolutely no ties to the shale gas industry, has concluded that the DEC has cherry picked its research findings from pro-drilling sources in derogation of completeness, accuracy and the public interest.”
A press release from the coalition said that the drilling issue has become deeply entwined with the political process at the state and local levels in some areas. It said, “In July, a Freedom of Information Act request by the Environmental Working Group revealed that gas industry lobbyists were given preferential access to draft regulations by DEC, allowing them to lobby for changes before the regulations were released to the public. A few weeks ago, Common Cause released an analysis of campaign contributions of pro-fracking interests during the 2012 election cycle. It showed pro-fracking interests contributed nearly $400,000 to candidates for state legislature and county executive in New York’s Southern Tier. In some races, contributions from pro-fracking interests were more than 20% of a candidate’s total fundraising.”