NYC
10/19/2012 02:24 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2012

New York Fracking: 'Gasland' Benefit Hosted By Scarlett Johansson, Scott Stringer

Public health advocates may have scored a victory when New York called for a review of the effects of hydraulic fracturing, further delaying any potential lift on the state's current drilling moratorium. But activists know the fight is still far from over.

During a benefit screening of "Gasland" on Thursday evening, filmmaker Josh Fox was joined by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and actress Scarlett Johansson to urge New Yorkers to continue calling upon Governor Andrew Cuomo to disapprove of the controversial natural gas extraction method, commonly referred to as "fracking."

"If Cuomo wants to be a leader for the future, then this is the time to take a stand, just like he did with gay marriage. He said, you know what, the zeitgeist has moved beyond us discriminating on who can get married and the zeitgeist has also moved beyond fossil fuels," Fox said.

When asked how the governor, who may be considering a run for president in 2016, could be affected if he does side with the drilling industry, Fox warned, "His legacy will be run to the ground. Those chemicals will have his initials and they will be there forever."

Judging by recent reports, Cuomo appears to be aware of the environmental hazards of fracking, as environmentalists praise his renewed call for studies as indication New York's moratorium will not be lifted anytime soon. The governor's decision has angered drilling executives who believe fracking will bring relief to economically distressed farm areas in the state.

Johansson is among those who remain positive. "I think that it's encouraging that he's reviewing the issue and it's a process," she said. "It's a political issue as well as an environmental issue. The fact that he's taking time to review is encouraging. It's a process."

The actress also pointed to "Gasland," the Academy Award-nominated documentary highlighting communities negatively impacted by fracking, as a way communities can help spread the word.

Although the film premiered in 2010, Fox pointed to the most recent presidential debate as a reason why conversations around drilling should be ongoing.

"We saw on the debate two nights ago, each candidate vying for who was drilling more," Fox said. "I mean, it's just amazing. You have Obama running four years ago on Smart Grid, which would presumably change our energy power distribution. Here, we have this fight over who's going to drill better when our federal lands are our public lands. That's our public trust that doesn't belong to Exxon, Shell, Hess."

Stringer, who appears in the documentary, stressed the importance of parents stepping in to put pressure on Cuomo:

I think parents understand that part of our responsibility is to make sure we leave the planet the same way we found it. The real issue is when parents think about their children's future. This is what riles them up about fracking because fracking could intrude into our watershed and pollute our water ... They don't want their children to get cancer ... It's first talking to the parents of that five-year-old who will hopefully have a better opportunity for a better environmental experience than some communities.

Sean Lennon and Yuka Honda of the group Artists Against Fracking also spoke at Thursday's screening.

Correction: A previous version of this article misnamed Sean Lennon and Yuka Honda's anti-fracking group. This has since been corrected.

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