ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Community organizers from New York's Southern Tier joined health and environmental groups Wednesday at a rally calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reject any demonstration project for shale gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
A coalition of more than 100 groups issued a statement in response to a report last week in the New York Times that the Cuomo administration was considering allowing fracking in limited areas where towns welcomed it in five Southern Tier counties near the Pennsylvania border.
In the statement, the coalition noted that the Department of Environmental Conservation is still working on its environmental review, and said any decision on drilling should wait until health, environmental, and community impacts are assessed.
The coalition includes Catskill Mountainkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, the Broome County Medical Society and other state and local organizations.
New York hasn't permitted fracking since the DEC began its environmental impact review in 2008 amid concerns that the technology, which injects chemically treated water at high pressure into a well to fracture shale and release gas, could threaten drinking water supplies and have other adverse impacts.
The New York Times last week quoted administration sources as saying Cuomo was considering allowing a limited number of fracked shale gas wells in parts of Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties, and only in communities that expressed support for it. Numerous communities have passed bans or moratoriums on drilling, but none are in the targeted area.
"We do not want to be the sacrifice zone for fracking," Sue Rapp, of the Broome County town of Vestal, said at the demonstration Wednesday in the Capitol's ornately carved stone Great Western Staircase. Rapp heads a community group that has gathered more than 2,000 signatures on a petition asking the Vestal Town Board to enact a fracking ban. A group of pro-drilling landowners is pressuring the board to pass a resolution welcoming the industry.
Participants in the rally held signs with messages such as, "Children are in your target zones."
"If true, the governor's proposal to only drill in economically disadvantaged areas of New York is a cynical departure from Cuomo's original promise to base his fracking decisions on science, not emotion," said Roger Downs of the Sierra Club-Atlantic Chapter.
Cuomo has not confirmed the Times report and had no comment on Wednesday's rally.