Shortly before Christmas, a pro-fracking group posted a graphic on its website showing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s face Photoshopped onto a dog. The dog is defecating on a green strip of land marked “New York Southern Tier.”
The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York Inc. posted the picture along with an announcement it would be holding a rally Jan. 5 in Binghamton, protesting Cuomo’s decision to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state.
Dan Fitzsimmons, a Broome County resident and the group’s president, said in the announcement that his group felt ignored by the governor throughout the process.
“If you want to have any chance of leasing your land you have to get loud and show your anger for being ignored and be at this rally,” he said.
Fracking is a method of extracting natural gas from underground rock formations using pressurized water, sand and chemicals injected into the ground. Many pro-business groups viewed the potential fracking of the Marcellus Shale in upstate New York as a needed boost that would bring jobs and money into financially struggling regions. Some landowners hoped for lucrative leasing or selling prices to oil companies.
New York decided to become the first state to ban large-scale fracking earlier this month on the recommendations of the state Department of Health, which had been studying the potential health effects for three years in a process that took place mostly out of the public eye.
Howard Zucker, a doctor and acting commissioner of the department, made a presentation to Cuomo and members of his cabinet Dec. 17 in Albany.
“Would I let my child play in the school field nearby or my family drink the water from the tap or grow their vegetables in the soil?” Zucker said. “After looking at the plethora of reports … my answer is no.”
Thirty states allow fracking, but New York had held off on making a decision since 2008 and the administration of former Gov. David Paterson. Cuomo was sued in February by the coalition, which wanted the federal government to compel the state to complete its ongoing studies into potential health impacts. A judge dismissed the suit, but the matter is now on appeal.
Two other recent fracking lawsuits were decided in favor of upstate communities that decided to ban the mining method before the state announced the ban. Dryden, in Tompkins County, was sued by an energy company looking to drill in the town. Middlefield, in Otsego County, was sued by a dairy farm that wanted to lease its land. The state appeals court upheld local rulings that allowed local prohibitions on where fracking would have been able to take place.
Twelve million acres, or 39 percent of the entire landmass of the state, sit above the gas-rich Marcellus Shale. About 63 percent of that overall acreage would have been ineligible for mining regardless of the ban due to proximity to watersheds and other factors, according to the state. That does not take into consideration potential local prohibitions or bans.
Fracking into the Marcellus has provided an economic boost over the border in Pennsylvania, pro-fracking groups say. The New York State Petroleum Council claimed that $630 million has been pumped into the Pennsylvania economy through fracking since 2012.
The coalition’s protest will take place at the downtown Binghamton Holiday Inn from 4 to 6 p.m.