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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."

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SA: And that's Joe Martens.

RA: Joseph Martens. And we said, "Hey, maybe we got lucky. Maybe Cuomo gets it. We know Martens gets it. So maybe we're moving down a path where you're going to see them take huge tracts of land off of the table, severely limit this industry in New York State, basically push them back until they can come back and prove that they can do it safely in the future." That's what we were starting to hope.

When they issued the second draft under Cuomo, we realized that, oh, no, it was worse; that we had a pro-fracking governor, and that they wanted to industrialize and frack the entire Catskills and Southern Tier, and sign it over -- 85% of the entire area open for fracking -- and no real protections. No hardball with this industry; they basically have given the whole state over, and you've got an ineffectual DEC -- no enforcement, no budget, no leadership. You've got a governor who has brought on people who are clearly pro-fracking as a senior staff, and he is probably running for president, and probably -- I can't speak for him -- but he probably feels he needs Big Oil and Gas, so he'll sacrifice the Catskills and the environment in order to have Big Oil and Gas support his run for president.

SA: You're advocating for a statewide ban. What are the next steps? And I'd also like to address, what will this mean?

RA: One thing that I've learned in this process is that there is always more to learn. It's a very complicated issue. There's the basic buzzwords -- "ban," "fracking," "frack you," all that fun stuff -- but it's a very complicated issue.

Today I learned something interesting on a phone call. We talk about the Marcellus Shale; they're actually after the Utica Shale as much or more than the Marcellus. The Utica is interesting because it sits all underneath the eastern Catskills -- Ulster County, all through Marbletown and Stone Ridge and Woodstock -- and all those communities are completely vulnerable, and they thought they were out of it ... and not all -- they're completely bulls-eyed, and that's something today I realized. And that's going to maybe change some of the dynamic, because those are important, beautiful, rich homes and people, and when they realize that it's not just their cousins and the hicks -- it's actually them, too -- that's important. The Catskill Park is open for drilling.

SA: And what does that mean? Because I think also we're talk about New York City, aren't we? This is the watershed for that region.

RA: People both in the industry and in government within the administration say, "Trust us. Trust us. Don't worry. We control the permits. We're not going to issue too many permits." And as soon as they say, "Trust us," you know you're in trouble because you cannot trust them. First of all, they won't be around in two years. There'll be some other guy running the DEC and the governor's office, so you can't trust anybody. And so, once they sort of open the floodgates to fracking here, this industry will roll over everybody, and we will turn the Catskills into an industrial landscape.

And with the best intentions of everybody at the DEC, everybody on the second floor in the governor's office thinking that they're in control -- they're not. Once they open the door, they'll never shut it again. And the next governor will be more beholden to the industry. The next DEC commissioner will be weaker. And the revolving door of people going from industry to the DEC and the DEC to industry will just start spinning faster.

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