by Jessica Wholander, Special Contribution from Food & Water Watch
New York’s food, farms, and agriculture are under threat from fracking, a dangerous gas-drilling method that threatens the purity of our water, air, and land.
In New York, we’re fortunate to have access to fresh vegetables from our local farms, yet there are communities around the country who do not have access to such fresh produce. In states where hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is underway, farmers’ livelihoods and the food system they support are threatened. We must send a strong message to Governor Cuomo, demanding that he stop this dangerous practice from undermining our own food systems by banning fracking in our state.
Fracking is the process of injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into wells at high pressure to crack dense rock formations and release oil or gas. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up to 75 percent of the millions of gallons of water that is required per well ends up back on the surface as waste water, contaminated with toxic chemicals as well as other naturally occurring pollutants and radioactive material. Researchers Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald found that this fluid can leak into the water supplies of residents and farmers, which happens as a result of frequent accidents and normal operations. The consequences are dire. These toxins contaminate the soil, poison livestock, and pollute the air, while methane emissions contribute to climate change. All of this results in decreased productivity of farmers’ fields and livestock while lowering their property value and threatening the safety of locally grown food.
Governor Cuomo is considering allowing fracking in regions where farming is central to the local economy. In the Southern Tier, for example, dairy products make up two-thirds of agricultural sales. In Pennsylvania, a study performed by the Penn State Extension showed that counties with dairy farms that had at least 150 fracking wells experienced a 16% decline in their dairy productivity, compared to regions without fracking wells, which experienced a 3% increase in productivity.
Because of the clear dangers of fracking, the movement to ban it is gaining momentum. Hundreds of farmers, brewers, vintners and chefs, including Mario Batali of The Food Network, and over 1,000 businesses and 242 organizations have joined the coalition New Yorkers Against Fracking. In addition, on June 30th, the New York State’s highest court dealt a blow to the oil and gas industry when they ruled that municipalities have the power to use zoning ordinances to ban fracking within their boundaries. The court made it clear, however, that they were making a decision only on the rights of municipalities and not on fracking itself, although the implications of this decision could be far reaching. Despite this, Governor Cuomo has not yet made up his mind, so it is imperative that we keep fighting.
There are numerous ways to get involved. Food & Water Watch and New Yorkers Against Fracking are planning rallies throughout the summer, and the more people at those rallies the more likely Governor Cuomo is to pay attention. October 11th will be the Global Frackdown, an international day of action to protest the practice. To get information on the times and locations of these rallies feel free to reach out to Food & Water Watch (contact info found below) or visit the New Yorkers Against Fracking website (also below). Anyone can write a letter to the editor of local, state and national newspapers to speak out against the dangerous practice and encourage others to do the same. In addition, Food & Water Watch and New Yorkers Against Fracking are constantly collecting and delivering petitions to Governor Cuomo, a powerful tactic in which everyone can participate. If you are interested in getting involved in any of these actions, we would love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out using the contact info below.
Fracking is exceptionally damaging to our water, air, and soil. If our environment becomes contaminated, the food we eat will be as well. If we are going to continue to enjoy fresh, local vegetables, we must urge Governor Cuomo to ban fracking now!
Jessica Wohlander, MA is an activist with Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization with offices in Brooklyn (www.FoodandWaterWatch.org). To get involved, contact Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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