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Grassroots Groups Unite For Statewide Ban on Fracking in New York

"We spent three years trying to prove that fracking could be done safely, and what we learned is that it can't be done safely. It is incredibly dangerous; it is incredibly toxic."

The following is from Sabrina Artel's Trailer Talk: The Frack Talk Marcellus Shale Water Project. Listen to the complete program here.

There's a huge battle happening in New York.  Catskill Mountainkeeper, the only land-based "keeper" organization in the country, took a position on July 1 (along with other 49 other grassroots organizations throughout the region) in support of a statewide ban on all gas drilling. Drilling in the region currently uses a controversial new Halliburton-created technique of slick water hydro-fracking to capture the gas embedded in the shale rock formations.

Catskill Mountainkeeper and its allies have taken their position in part because New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced his support for lifting a temporary ban on drilling and moving forward this year on fracking parts of New York. Ramsay Adams, the founder and director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, lives in the Sullivan County Catskills and comes from a family of naturalists and environmentalists. His father, John Adams, is one of the founders of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and his grandfather was with the U.S. Forest Service in North Carolina. I spoke with him on July 26.

Sabrina Artel: We're exploring the impact of natural gas drilling on New York's water resources and the issues being debated in our neighborhoods throughout the country and globally. What defines the American Dream, and how does it impact the decisions being made in our communities? Local culture, generations of history and beloved homes can be lost when the oil and gas companies, intent on fossil fuel extraction, move into a new region. We're facing a complete shift in our region as this largest-ever concentration of gas lies in wait beneath our feet.

Ramsay Adam is the executive director and the founder of Catskill Mountainkeeper. We're going to talk about what Catskill Mountainkeeper is, what they do, what they advocate for. We're sitting on Ramsay's porch in Lew Beach, New York, which is in Sullivan County in the Catskills.

And Ramsay, what am I hearing? I'm hearing a river in the background.

Ramsay Adams: This is the convergence of Shin Creek and the Beaverkill River, so you hear the Beaverkill as sort of the deep roar, and then the rumbling stream is Shin Creek coming down off the mountain and meeting the Beaverkill.

SA: And what about these mountains we're looking at? They are large mountains just in front of us on the porch here.

RA: In the heart of the Catskills, we call that mountain Magic Mountain. These are incredible hills. Most of them were clearcut, as most of the Catskills were, for tanning -- the tanneries and the hemlocks -- so they basically clearcut all these hills, but they've all grown back, so these are 100-year-old forests. And this is part of the largest sort of contiguous forest block on the east coast. What you look at if you look at a satellite of the Catskills, you see this incredible swath of contiguous forest land that extends all the way through the Hudson Valley, all the way into Pennsylvania, and it's really an incredibly important environmental and geological and natural asset that we've got here.

SA: And before we begin talking about natural gas drilling and fracking, which is where this conversation really has to go at this point because of the work that you've been doing with Catskill Mountainkeeper and the shift now that we're in. In New York State it's July 25th; it's 2011; and things have changed because of the DEC -- the Department of Environmental Conservation's SGEIS -- their draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement -- is coming out. They've come out with their regulations, and because of the stands Cuomo has taken, I want to talk to you about that.

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