Open Letter to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo: Do Not Lift Fracking Moratorium!

Dear Governor Cuomo:

As a former farmer, trained environmentalist, researcher, and independent journalist, I have spent much of the last three years learning and writing about fracking. I am a cofounder of the Coalition to Protect New York, among other actively engaged organizations working to ban fracking in our state and elsewhere.

We do not trust the Department of Environmental Conservation to get things right on fracking. Even if it were a reliable and trustworthy agency, the DEC’s budget has been cut so drastically and its workforce decimated to the point that it’s virtually hamstrung.

We do not trust — nor should any sensible, informed citizen or legislator — corporate-bought politicians and corporate "scientists." For the moment we must trust that you are not among that group and that you truly want to do what is right for New York State.

In these tough economic, energy and environmental times it will take a visionary, forward-thinking leader to bring the state into the future with an innovative energy/jobs/climate-change-effects-lessening plan.

You can be that leader, if you have the desire and political will.

We hear that you are thinking of lifting the moratorium for the state outside the New York City watershed (because Wall Street traders, corporate tycoons and big bankers live downstate) and the Syracuse watershed (tossing a bone to the rest of the state, according to cynics), while throwing the rest of us to the wolves.

If you actually do this, it would mean you think of the rest of the state’s residents and environment as expendable. I think at this point, you’d be committing political suicide.

Many millions of New Yorkers now know what is at stake with fracking, and more are coming to that understanding daily as they learn of its ills in other places.

That speaks to the dedication of my fellow antifracking activists, who are fighting an industry that can without blinking an eye drop $150 million or more yearly to hoodwink the public and lobby legislators with false propaganda. Their ads claim that “natural” gas is “clean, safe, domestic, and patriotic,” that it’s an economic panacea for struggling workers whose jobs have been eliminated or sent abroad.

As you surely know, these are all false claims.

Governor, you should not even consider lifting the moratorium. The only sensible, responsible, long-term response to the devastating practice of fracking (a response that would also greatly offset our economic woes) is to:

1) immediately institute a statewide fracking ban (New Jersey’s legislature just passed one; it’s waiting for Governor Christie’s signature, which is probably not forthcoming; but you could be the first);

2) invest in wide-scale updating and reinforcing of infrastructures and in conservation/energy-efficiency rehabilitating existing public and private buildings and homes;

3) commit to the building and maintenance of long-term energy-efficient public transportation and codify mandatory greater fuel efficiency in all private and public large, small, agricultural, and industrial vehicles;

4) invest in research, development and implementation of renewable, sustainable neighborhood- and local-based energy systems, and write and enforce laws mandating the phase-out of all fossil-fuel based systems;

5) protect and keep public all drinking water supplies;

6) promote and foster healthful, organic agriculture and food distribution models; and

7) invest in public education programs about conservation, the reduction of energy consumption and renewable energy strategies.

Following such a plan would save money through conservation. It would reduce our need for and dependence on fossil fuels (which, as you know, is unsustainable, even in the short term). It would also create plenty of safer, stabler, longer-term jobs, as the “green” sector expands with innovative new projects.

Perhaps most important, it would help stave off further hastening of catastrophic climate change and leave a legacy of forward-thinking and sustainability — rather than one of industrialization and ruination of lives, communities and food and water supplies.

Fracking is the single most important issue facing New Yorkers. It will add water-pollution, air-pollution and food toxicity illnesses, generate injuries to workers and others, and thereby increase our health care costs. It contributes to greenhouse gases and global climate change and the increasingly commonplace wacky weather patterns we are seeing in New York and elsewhere. It will kill our tourism, outdoor adventuring, and agriculture and vineyards enterprises around the state—which would constitute economic suicide. Those industries combined bring in about $2.2 billion annually and provide 515,000 jobs (and will likely grow as neighboring Pennsylvania’s hunting, fishing, agriculture, and tourism sicken and die of fracking-related causes).

We must not allow the progress we have made these last few decades on the clean air/clean water/safe food to be wiped out via one destructive industry, nor allow our bucolic state to be turned into an industrial wasteland.

New York is “Fracking Ground Zero.” People in fracked states are looking to us for leadership, begging New Yorkers to stop the madness before it takes hold here. They do not want us to be poisoned, and they also want us to help them stop the industrialization and maybe help reverse some of the damage to their communities. 

(Alas, it is too late for many of these states, and huge swathes of land as well as people’s health and properties are beyond reclamation.) 

Because, mark my words, that is what fracking will do to New York should you permit it.
Governor Cuomo, I urge you to be the leader New Yorkers need — the leader they put their faith in when casting their votes.

Do not succumb to industry/Wall Street pressure. Do not put profits before our health. Do not gamble with our lives.

This is a make-or-break issue for me, my family, and the many organizations to which I belong. We are making this the top priority in our lives and in our daily and many political actions. We feel we are fighting for our way of life — indeed, for our very lives. We want you to be equally committed to saving what is precious and irreplaceable.

Please invite us to consult with you if your information is leading you to lift the moratorium. We are informed. We are knowledgeable. We are farsighted.

We are taxpaying scientists, medical doctors and practitioners from many fields (oncology, pulmonology, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, psychiatry, and endocrinology). We are farmers, water quality specialists, hazardous materials experts, teachers, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, writers, artists, homeowners, renters, teens, college students, parents, grandparents, and voters.

We will help you understand that fracking risks are far too great, too widespread, too permanent, too irremediable, too suicidal on so many fronts.

We are also motivated. There’s nothing that pulls people off their couches like a threat to their health and their property values. We will not allow ourselves to be used as lab rats, cannon fodder, or "collateral damage."

You can be sure that we will not stop fighting for a ban. We hope you will do the right thing and push for a total ban on fracking in New York State.

And Governor, please make the decision quickly. We have all lost countless hours to this fight — and countless hours of sleep to our deep and very real fears of what fracking will do to our future, and our children’s future— and we would like to go back to being productive rather than reactive. Our reinvigoration and productivity will also help the troubled economy, about which you might be losing a lot of sleep as well.

We are also willing to sit on an advisory board to help you put the positive sustainability/conservation work mentioned above in place. Just ask us.

My family, friends, colleagues, fellow activists and I look forward to your response.


Maura Stephens, Tioga County, NY

You can contact New York Governor Andrew Cuomo here or call him at (518) 474-8390.

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