(report by Linda A. DeStefano, Conservation Chair, Iroquois Group of the Sierra Club)
May 12, 2014 found three of us headed from Syracuse to Albany to join others for Lobby Day on Fracking. I represented Sierra Club while my husband, Richard Weiskopf, represented Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Emily Bishop represented New Yorkers Against Fracking. Upon arrival at the Legislative Office Building, I enjoyed greeting Sierra Club leaders who I usually only "see" electronically: Roger Downs (Atlantic Chapter Conservation Director), Caitlin Pixley (Conservation Associate) and Susan Lawrence (Conservation Chair). Besides Sierrans, there were activists from Environmental Advocates and other organizations. We converged on a room converted into the "Frack Cafe," where Environmental Advocates had prepared a generous spread of fruit, bagels, beverages and other snacks. After helpful previews of the bills we were to lobby on, each team headed to the appointments that had been arranged for us.
Emily, Richard and I visited the offices of six legislators. We asked for support for the following bills:
Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing A.1685/S.673 Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing (a fallback position if a ban doesn't pass) A.5424A/S.4263A
Ban on Roadspreading of Brine from Hydraulic Fracturing S.3333A
Ban on Use of NYS Landfills and Wastewater Treatment Facilities for Waste from Hydraulic Fracturing S.5412/A.7497
Closing of Hazardous Waste Loophole (in which the gas industry is exempt from treating their waste as hazardous even though it is) S.674/A.1046
We had a useful packet of material to leave with legislators, including a report by Center for Environmental Health (with an office in NYC) on the health dangers from benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic, methane, radium, radon and several other products of the fracking industry. The report focussed on pregnant women and infants, as being especially vulnerable to these hazardous products.
The experience at each legislative office varied. At one, an aide met with us in the hall rather than a room, and he didn't know a lot about the issues. It gave us an opportunity to educate him. At another, Assemblywoman Jaffee herself met with us in a comfortable office, and she agreed with our concerns about fracking, as evidenced by her co-sponsorship of anti-fracking bills. Sen. John DeFrancisco met with us in a huge conference room and bluntly told us that he favors an experimental fracking program in one area of NYS that is willing to accept it. Our pleas to avoid any "sacrifice area" in our beautiful state didn't move him, saying he needs us to produce a study from the Environmental Protection Agency about the dangers of fracking before he changes his position. Although we knew of no such study, we did hand him the study from Center for Environmental Health. And Sen. DeFrancisco was surprised to see the list of landfills in NYS which already have accepted fracking waste from Pennsylvania, including radioactive drill cuttings. He said he would discuss this with the Department of Environmental Conservation and get back to Emily with DEC's response. At the office of Sen. Stavisky, we met with an aide who was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastically on our side. He is an environmental attorney and worked on the Painted Post case with Sierra Club. This was a case in which Sierra Club challenged the withdrawal of water from Painted Post for fracking.
Those of you who didn't make the trek to Albany can still lobby for these important bills by contacting your own state senator and member of the assembly. If you don't know who they are, ask your local Board of Elections, which will also provide address, phone and email for them.