While New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to decide whether to allow hydraulic fracturing, members of the Ithaca and Cornell communities have put their feet down — gathering on Sunday at the Commons to participate in an anti-fracking rally.
Protesters expressed their opposition to fracking, or the practice of injecting chemicals and water into the ground to extract natural gas.
“We are less frightened of jail cells than of poisoned water,” said Prof. Sandra Steingraber, Ithaca College, environmental studies and sciences.
Reed Steberger ’13, a student coordinator for the rally, said that if Cuomo votes in favor of fracking, protestors are prepared to take additional action.
“Today’s rally kicks off a week of 13 actions and trainings to prepare New Yorkers for civil disobedience should Governor Cuomo decide to allow fracking,” Steberger said.
Julia Fiore ’13, another student coordinator of the rally, criticized the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the drafts of fracking regulations it has released. She added that not enough studies have been conducted to prove that fracking is safe.
“I think that [fracking] will drastically change the landscape of New York. It’ll harm our economy,” Fiore said.
Steingraber said that the greatest problem with fracking is the scientific uncertainty surrounding it.
“Do you want to force people to become subjects in an uncontrolled human experiment?” Steingraber said. “Fracking represents the massive industrialization of a landscape.”
At the rally, Steberger spoke about the known consequences of fracking, including the release of methane gas.
“Expanding the development of natural gas, a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide … shows a blatant disregard for basic climate science, and will have consequences for everyone in our generation who will have to live through more extreme weather as climate change intensifies,” he said.
Martha Robertson, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, also stressed the potency of methane released during fracking. Robertson called the promise of energy independence a “second lie.”
She added that claims that fracking will not create jobs in New York. According to Robertson, fracking would only create short-term employment and would bring in many out-of-state workers.
“Hire … is not the same as a job,” she said.
Steberger echoed Robertson, adding that the economic benefits have been overstated.
“It’s a boom and it’s a bust,” Steberger said.
Also at the rally, Ben Knowles and Jacob Wise — who are part of a coalition at Ithaca College that is working towards making IC divest its funds from fossil fuel-based industries — proposed divestment from fracking, which would deliberately remove funding from that industry, as a solution.
“Divestment is one of the most effective ways that we as students can help resist fracking in New York State,” Wise said. “Not only will it weaken the financial structures of these industries, but it will send a message to our institutions that we aren’t going to stand for this.”
Steingraber noted the strength of the anti-fracking movement, and said she hopes Cuomo will disallow fracking.
“Those who oppose fracking in New York State are determined, resourceful and organized in a growing movement,” Steingraber said. “All of us will hold [Cuomo] personally responsible for allowing our beautiful state to be colonized and plundered by a brutal, extracting industry.”