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New York Should Become the First State to Ban Fracking

"We believe that the pillars of the 21st century are clean water and air, alternative energy, and economic justice," Gomer said upon receiving the Advocacy Award from Common Cause.

Adelaide Park Gomer, president of the Park Foundation based in Ithaca, New York, received the Advocacy Award from Common Cause for her work fighting fracking. Gomer is as a knowledgeable and passionate defender of independent media, environmental sustainability, and higher education, as well as of democratic and transparent governance.

She and the Park Foundation have been among the staunchest supporters of the antifracking movement in New York, as the gas industry is poised to begin this dangerous, dirty, and destructive practice throughout much of the state, should Governor Andrew Cuomo give it the green light-which could happen very soon despite the overwhelming evidence that fracking poisons air, water, soil and food supply, endangers public health, and shows no long-term economic benefit.

The award was given at a banquet held in New York City on November 29, 2011. Among the guests were many grassroots activists, NGO staff members, and and independent journalists whose antifracking, pro-environmental, or reporting work has been supported by Gomer's and the Park Foundation's philanthropy. During her speech, Gomer was interrupted by applause numerous times and received two standing ovations.

This is the speech she delivered in accepting the award.

This is an honor I certainly did not expect. I have always resonated with and respected the work of Common Cause. Thank you so much for this recognition. It means a lot to me.

Recently my daughter, Alicia, and I took an evening flight from Philadelphia to Ithaca. While over Pennsylvania, we noticed that a once-beautiful wilderness area was now dotted and lit up by blinding white lights and eerily disturbing gas flares. There were too many fracking operations to count. New York State will go the way of Pennsylvania unless we continue to take a stand against one of the greatest environmental atrocities of our generation.

Three years ago, I first read about the gas industry's plan to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in a process called fracking. I felt somewhat like an Iraqi must have felt in reaction to “shock and awe.” Hydraulic fracking drills up to 8,000 feet into the bowels of the Earth. It requires millions of gallons of water and hundreds of unidentified chemicals (including carcinogens) to extract tiny bubbles of methane gas that have formed over millions of years. Radioactive materials, brine, and heavy metals are also brought up to the surface. These materials are extremely toxic. As with nuclear materials, there is no way to dispose of them. Yet in some cases, the waste fluid has been marketed as salt and spread on our roads.

Fracking will ruin our pristine landscapes, agriculture, our tourism, and our wine industry. Wine alone is a $3.7 billion-a-year industry in New York State.

And fracking will ruin our health.

As a cancer survivor, I am concerned about the shockingly rising rates of environmentally caused cancer in our population. Why would we want to expose ourselves to more carcinogenic chemicals? Do we want another Love Canal, on a much vaster scale? According to biologist Sandra Steingraber, the 1,500-page New York State draft environmental impact statement on fracking mentions the word “cancer” a total of 10 times.

Eight years ago, Alicia suggested that our foundation focus our environmental grant-making on water. Our grants now concentrate on preserving the quantity and quality of potable water east of the Mississippi. Our goal is to establish water as a commons-publicly-supported and available for everyone.

Although 70 percent of the Earth is covered by water, most of this is salt water; only 2.5 percent is fresh water. Much of that is frozen in the polar icecaps and in deep inaccessible underground aquifers. This means that less than 1 percent of the world's fresh water is available for the seven billion people who now walk the earth . . . and how much of this is being polluted even as I speak?

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