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February 22, 2012

The Latest Fracking News from New York State

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Sierra Club's Atlantic Chapter and gas activists across New York State are still working to protect their communities from the dangers of fracking. On top of last month's protests and organizing around the states Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) we are now starting to see smaller victories. 

In addition to the Atlantic Chapter's excellent work turning out thousands of comments to the Department of Conservation (DEC), the Sierra Club also joined other environmental groups in submitting expert analysis of the proposed SGEIS. These expert comments examine how the SGEIS falls short of truly protecting New Yorkers from the dangers of fracking.

But the fight doesn’t stop in Albany. Recently a central New York town blocked natural-gas drilling after a state judge, in the first test of local laws, upheld the town of Dryden's ban on hydraulic fracturing.  This ruling pushes back on the industry's fight to frack in New York despite the statewide moratorium and shows communities can still defend themselves.

"Judge Rumsey's ruling in the Dryden case is a great victory for local democracy," said Gusti Bogok, the co-chair of the Atlantic Chapter Gas Drilling Task Force. "It is a first step in the movement to give municipalities the right to protect their communities, their health and environment, empowering local citizens to decide for themselves what kind of energy future they want -- while diminishing the influence of entrenched state agencies and multi-national corporations which often make decisions against the interests of the people." 

While this is certainly good news out of New York, this ruling only casts a darker shadow on Pennsylvania. A new pro-drilling law (HB 1950) in Pennsylvania effectively ties the hands of local governments and strips them of the right to decide what happens in their own backyards. The law prohibits local governments from deciding the appropriate locations of fracking sites and takes away local municipalities' rights to stop fracking in sensitive areas, even if public health is in danger.  PA communities no longer have the right to say no to fracking as a result of this pro-drilling powerplay by the natural gas industry.

Sierra Club's Natural Gas Reform Campaign will continue to work with both the Atlantic Chapter and the Pennsylvania Chapter to protect our communities from a gas industry runamok.  Join us here.

-- Deb Nardone, Director of Sierra Club's Natural Gas Reform Campaign

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