Coalition Urges NY Sen. Grisanti to Support Statewide Fracking Ban
On April 4, Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-60), chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee, introduced five bills in the State Senate which attempt to address concerns regarding the practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as “hydrofracking”—none of which alter the underlying safety issues raised by the controversial technique of natural gas extraction.
Sen. Grisanti’s bills would develop tracking systems for potential fracking sites and waste produced, regulate the use of wastewater from the fracking process and establish an online notification system for notifying the public within 48 hours of fracking discharges self-reported by fracking companies.
Sen. Grisanti’s bills have not garnered widespread support among the environmental community in New York. The coalition of groups New Yorkers Against Fracking called on Sen. Grisanti to listen to his constituents and support a statewide ban. Much like the majority of New Yorkers, voters in Sen. Grisanti’s district are clear in their disapproval of hydrofracking. Niagara Falls and Buffalo—two cities in Sen. Grisanti’s district—recently passed local bans on fracking and resolutions calling for a statewide ban on the controversial practice.
"Grisanti's proposals are nothing but a fig leaf. They allow him to pretend he cares about the safety of our water, but they really just pave the way for the fracking of New York to begin," said Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party.
Sen. Grisanti’s constituents staged a press conference in December 2011, presenting him with petition signatures and letters from constituent organizations asking that he support a ban on fracking. In March, constituents also staged a candlelight vigil outside of Sen. Grisanti’s office to remember the instances of water contamination that have already occurred across the U.S.
The Buffalo Common Council also recently passed a resolution of support for a fracking ban in New York, stating that a law to prohibit natural gas drilling in New York will protect residents and neighbors from the harmful effects of drilling, as well as safe-guarding air, land and local waterways. The DEC, while prohibiting fracking in certain watersheds in Syracuse and New York City, has not prohibited drilling in any Western NY watersheds.
"The bills introduced today by Senator Grisanti are full of loopholes and would fail to protect western New Yorkers from fracking's threats to our health, economy and environment," said Rita Yelda, Buffalo organizer for Food & Water Watch. "Senator Grisanti's constituents have sent him a loud and clear message that they will accept nothing less than his support for a ban on fracking in New York."
“With or without regulations in place, fracking is a menace to public health,” said David Braun, a spokesperson for New Yorkers Against Fracking. “It lays down blankets of smog, fills roadway with trucks hauling hazardous materials, sends sediment into streams, and generates immense quantities of radioactive, carcinogen-laced waste for which no fail-safe disposal options exist. These measures won’t protect our water and our health.”
Lois Gibbs, a mother of two children who narrowly survived permanent health damage as a result of Love Canal chemical exposures in the Niagara area, expressed concerns that questions still remained unanswered over the health effects of the chemicals used in the fracking process.
“When Love Canal was built, we were told that the chemicals produced would be safe—but they weren’t. Fracking advocates say the same thing. It’s time to learn from past mistakes,” Gibbs said.
New Yorkers Against Fracking, is a new coalition of diverse organizations that support a fracking ban, are joining together to tell Gov. Andrew Cuomo and our leaders in Albany to stand up for New Yorkers to keep our water and our state safe by banning hydrofracking.
Founding members of New Yorkers Against Fracking include statewide and national organizations like Citizen Action of New York, New York State Breast Cancer Network, Food & Water Watch, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Frack Action, Water Defense, the Working Families Party joining with local grassroots anti-fracking groups and business in each part of the state such as Brewery Ommegang, Frack-Free Catskills and Fingerlakes Clean Waters Initiative and many more. The full list of more than 50 organizations can be found by clicking here.
Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., author, biologist, advocate and recent winner of the prestigious Heinz Award for her life's work, donated a significant portion of her award to help prevent fracking in New York—providing the seed money for this effort. Diagnosed with cancer in her youth, Steingraber is a central voice in the fight against fracking and has devoted her career to understanding the ways in which chemical contaminants in air, water and food endanger human health.
Sandra will serve as an honorary member of the New Yorkers Against Fracking advisory committee. Joining Sandra as honorary advisory committee members will be Niagara native, former Love Canal resident and founder of Center for Health, Environment and Justice Lois Gibbs and outspoken anti-fracking advocate and upstate resident and actor Mark Ruffalo.
About Hydraulic Fracking
High volume hydraulic fracturing, combined with horizontal drilling, involves pumping millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand underground to extract natural gas from shale bedrock. Multiple studies show how inherently dangerous it is. Most New Yorkers are wary of fracking. A recent Marist poll found a majority of New Yorkers oppose legalizing fracking due to its potential to contaminate New York’s watersheds with carcinogens and other toxicants.
With or without regulations in place, fracking is a menace to public health. It lays down blankets of smog, fills roadway with trucks hauling hazardous materials, sends sediment into streams, and generates immense quantities of radioactive, carcinogen-laced waste for which no fail-safe disposal options exist.
Since fracking began in states outside of New York, there have been more than a thousand reports of water contamination. New studies link fracking-related activities to contaminated groundwater, air pollution, illness, death and reproductive problems in cows, horses and wildlife, and most recently human health problems. A recent study from the Colorado School of Public Health found that those living within a half-mile of a natural gas drilling site faced greater health risks than those who live farther away.
New York has seen a surge of local fracking bans enacted across the state. Overall, 82 towns and 6 counties have enacted bans or moratoria in New York State. Seventy-one municipalities are also considering or staging a ban or moratorium. In the past few weeks, Buffalo, the second largest city in New York, and Niagara Falls both passed resolutions calling for Gov. Cuomo and the state legislature to pass a statewide ban on fracking.
For more information, click here.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
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