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GOP senators stonewall growing opposition to fracking

The last week of legislative session in Albany is usually an intense time of late-night negotiations and fierce public advocacy as state government tries to make up for months of inaction in just a few days.

This has been exceptionally busy year, with major issues (same sex marriage, rent control, property taxes, SUNY tuition hikes and power plant siting) dominating the back room sessions and flooding the halls with protesters.

Noticeably absent from the end-of-session calendar is hydrofracking, the controversial natural gas extraction technique that in previous months dominated headlines and captured the attention of lawmakers.

In April and May, the Sierra Club helped bring thousands of activists to Albany in a relentless string of protests, marches, lobby days and hearings to call for bans, closure of drilling loopholes, and the strengthening of environmental laws. And while the noise in Albany intensified, events were unfolding elsewhere that only increased the urgency to stop this mad march toward expanded drilling:

• The New York Times presented a scathing, three-part series revealing that the EPA had suppressed reports concluding that New York and Pennsylvania’s sewage treatment facilities are incapable of treating drilling wastes --– including levels of radioactivity 100 to 1000 times higher than drinking water safety standards.

• Attorney General Schneiderman sued the Delaware River Basin Commission for failing to conduct an environmental impact statement on hydraulic fracturing permits before going forward with an ill-conceived rule-making process.

• The Assembly held hearings on the public health impacts of hydrofracking and the testimony of a dozen medical professionals, endocrinologists and public heath experts revealed how little we know about the human pathology of drilling –-- and what we do know indicates there could be widespread issues.

• Dozens of municipalities and townships amended zoning regulations to prohibit fracking within their borders.

• Credit unions and lending agencies sounded the alarm that drilling is a liability to property values and they will not provide mortgages to leased land or the land immediately adjacent to drilling activity, potentially preventing millions of acres of New York real estate from being bought or sold.

• And a natural gas well in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, blew out, discharging thousands of gallons of water containing fracking chemicals into a nearby creek. Seven households were evacuated from the area as a result. Chesapeake Energy, the state’s largest drilling company, suspended all operations until it could determine what went so catastrophically wrong.

Article reprinted from http://newyork.sierraclub.org/index.html