Brooklyn Boro

OPINION: Beyond our fracking ban

July 9, 2015 By Eric Weltman For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Gov. Andrew Cuomo. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

On June 29, the Cuomo administration officially put in place the ban on fracking in New York announced last December. It was a remarkable show of leadership by Gov. Cuomo in standing up to the oil and gas industries to protect our families, communities and environment. And it reflected the growing body of science showing fracking’s threats to our health and safety, from causing earthquakes to contaminating groundwater.

It was a move of significant meaning for those Brooklyn neighborhoods hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy, many still struggling to recover. The fracking process releases massive amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and burning natural gas produces carbon dioxide. Cuomo’s ban on fracking will help ease global warming and the prospect of further tragic climate catastrophes.

Most fundamentally, Cuomo’s ban on fracking was an important step towards eliminating our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and making a transition to clean renewable energy, like wind and solar power. It established a standard for bold leadership that President Obama and other governors and elected officials must follow. And it set New York on a path that Cuomo must continue to lead us down.

There are two key steps that Cuomo and Congress can take to continue the progress made by New York’s fracking ban. One is to stop the construction of the infrastructure necessary to support fracking. The second is to ban fracking on our federal lands.

Even though fracking has been banned in New York, a spider’s web of fracking-related infrastructure is spreading in and around New York City. This includes pipelines, compressor stations and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. This infrastructure poses risks in its own right, including leaks and explosions, and also facilitates, enables and promotes fracking in other states.

Port Ambrose is one of the most notorious of such projects. Port Ambrose is an LNG facility proposed for construction off the coast of the city and Long Island. The project would present a public safety threat, with explosive gas risking thousands of lives. It would threaten our beaches, ocean ecology, and tourism and fishing industries. Finally, it would block a clean wind energy facility proposed for the same offshore location.

Fortunately, Cuomo has the authority to veto Port Ambrose. The New York City Council unanimously approved a resolution against Port Ambrose. We hope that Cuomo will maintain his leadership against fracking by stopping this dangerous facility.

Another front where Brooklyn’s Congressional delegation can lead is banning fracking on federal lands. By the end of 2014, oil and gas companies had leases on over 34 million acres of public land, including national forests and areas buffering our most precious national parks and monuments. Drilling threatens to impact some of our most cherished public spaces, from the Alleghany National Forest in Pennsylvania to Glacier National Park in Montana.

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Our country’s natural treasures should be preserved for generations to come, not fracked for a short-term corporate gain. Fortunately, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced legislation this spring, the Protect Our Public Lands Act, banning fracking on federal lands. Thus far, only three members of our state’s Congressional delegation — Reps. Charles Rangel, Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney — have cosponsored the bill. We need the rest of New York’s Congress members to sign on, as well as U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer or Kirsten Gillibrand to introduce companion legislation in the Senate. 

These two steps — stopping fracking-related infrastructure and banning fracking on federal lands — would contribute to making the shift from dirty fossil fuels to safe renewable energy. We need Cuomo and our members of Congress to lead in this effort. Brooklyn’s future depends on it.

Eric Weltman is a Brooklyn-based senior organizer for Food & Water Watch, an advocacy organization.

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