At a forum on Tuesday night, State Senator Adriano Espaillat said New York State needs to pump the brakes on hydrofracking, the process of creating a crack underground with highly pressurized water and chemical additives to harvest natural gas.
Espaillat joined the Environmental Advocates of New York and other New York City residents to urge Upper West Side residents to fight against hydraulic fracturing during a community forum at Ansche Chesed, a local synagogue at 100th Street and West End Avenue.
“The fight against hydrofracking is a fight against the natural gas and big oil industry,” Espaillat said. “Sometimes in life you’ve got to take a side.”
Last August, the New York State Senate imposed a one-year moratorium on hydrofracking, giving hope to activists and environmentalists. Historically, hydrofracking has been a controversial issue in New York, one of the last cities with unfiltered tap water, where many people are concerned it could contaminate New York’s drinking water supply.
Senator Espaillat said that hydrofracking “will put in serious jeopardy our watershed, will put in serious jeopardy our health as New Yorkers.”
With the moratorium’s expiration, Governor Andrew Cuomo and others have advocated for the drilling technique to go into effect in New York State in spring 2012. Espaillat said he hopes to convince Cuomo to wait until more research is available before hydrofracking begins.
“We should come forward and push back on Governor Cuomo,” Espaillat said to resounding applause.
At the forum, one concerned resident said that many gas companies, including one at which he was formerly employed, have not disclosed the nature of the chemicals that are eventually dumped into ponds and lakes or leak into the water at the drill site.
David Gahl, deputy director of the Environmental Advocates of New York, criticized the lack of scientific research conducted by oil companies drilling for natural resources.
“Science is not driving this process,” Gahl said.
When one community member asked why Cuomo would support this program, Espaillat responded, “Money.”
According to Espaillat, Cuomo has been pushing a hydrofracking program to bring up state revenue and create new jobs in New York State.
“By year30, they’re talking 25,000 permits a year for three counties alone,” Gahl said, stressing how this would be a dramatic increase compared to the number of drilling permits currently allowed.
However, he said that most upstate New Yorkers are more concerned with their drinking water than their checkbooks.
“47 percent of upstaters … are opposed to drilling,” Gahl said, citing a study conducted at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.
Espaillat said he believes Cuomo is prioritizing money before safety.
“The governor feels like he can bail out New York by fracking,” Espaillat said. “Personally, I disagree.”
But Upper West Side resident Cy Adler said he can empathize with landowners who have to make tough decisions in hard financial times.
“If you and I had a farm in upstate New York and BP offered $10,000 to come and drill on it, what would you say?” he said. “You’d have to think about it."