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New York State is becoming a major battleground in the struggle against fracking, and as activists, we must make our voices heard. A significant point has now been reached with the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).  New York State seemingly is in a showdown with the federal government's pro-fracking position.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand, and a multi-chemical cocktail  (including carcinogens) at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. The chemicals that make up the fracking fluid are cause for concern. They may include, among other things, barium, strontium, benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-methoxyethoxy ethanol, arsenic, radon and nonylphenols. All have been linked to health disorders when human exposure is too high.  Fracking has been linked to water contamination in a number of states, including Pennsylvania, where within the past two months there was an explosion pouring thousands of gallons of gas into the water supply.

During the Bush administration, individuals with ties to the oil industry, instead of being  vigilant as stakeholders for American citizens’ health, rather proactively profiteered by making fracking exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  There were also exemptions from the Clean Water Act, RCRA and the Clean Air act.

Lt. Col. Philip Secrist on September 15, 2010 voted to continue limited exploratory drilling in the Delaware basin.  Lt. Col. Secrist represents Army Corps of Engineers Brigadier General Tom De Luca on the DRB commission. However, at that meeting, Secrist also pointedly noted that he was “representing President Obama” on the commission. 

NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently stated his intent to sue the federal government if it didn’t commit within 30 days (by May 18th) to conduct a full environmental review of proposed regulations that would allow natural gas drilling – including the reportedly harmful "fracking" technique – in the Delaware River Basin, which includes parts of the New York City watershed and portions of Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Schoharie, Greene, Ulster, Orange and Sullivan Counties. This watershed provides approximately 50 percent of the drinking water used by over nine million New York residents and visitors every day.  New York State government in this scenario is poised to be pitted against the federal government. Governor Cuomo has indicated his inclination to not necessarily be persuaded by doomsayers and extremists.

Some experts believe that horizontal hydraulic fracturing for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale could destroy the pristine quality of the aquifers responsible for  some of the most clean and pure drinking water in the world.  Pollution in the Croton and Catskill/ Delawarewatersheds could conceivably reach a tipping point from which there might be no return. If those watersheds, which supply over 95% of NYC’s drinking water, are polluted with this perilously undisclosed chemical cocktail, NYC’s drinking water could be ruined forever.

We have to ask, is the profit interest of the few more important than the healthy and sustainable survival of the entire population. Corporate proprietary trademark rights have kept hundreds of the chemicals in the fracking cocktail away from the public domain.  Legislators should have the right to this information in order to fulfill their duty to protect us. Rewarding the powers of greed, and the few, at peril to millions of NYC residents is not what we want.  Especially in light of ongoing political battles and recently introduced campaign finance legislation, it is time to decide if citizens progressively coming together in coalitions, will be heard and will be persuasive, or whether corporate interests will continue to rule the day.