New Yorkers Call on Gov. Cuomo to Protect Thriving Tourism Industry from Fracking
On the day of Governor Cuomo’s tourism summit, New York bed-and-breakfasts, wineries and other tourism-related businesses highlighted fracking’s incompatibility with upstate tourism and called on the governor to protect the state’s tourism industry by banning fracking. New Yorkers Against Fracking also announced a radio ad running in Albany, emphasizing the risks that fracking poses to the state’s rural tourism industry. Dozens of citizens wore iconic “I (Heart) New York” t-shirts and handed out literature to participants as they entered the summit.
“If Governor Cuomo is serious about creating a thriving tourist industry that continues to grow our economy and upstate jobs then he will realize that fracking is incompatible with that future,” said Julia Walsh of New Yorkers Against Fracking. “Fracking will drive away tourists from New York who will fear their health will be compromised from a visit to the Empire State.”
Last week the Finger Lakes was named by Yahoo! as a location for “Lakeside vacations that have it all.” The Finger Lakes were recognized for their more than 100 wineries that line the shores of its 11 lakes, wine tours, the beautiful village of Skaneateles, the Corning Glass Museum and the Watkins Glen State Park where you can climb past 19 waterfalls. For years, winery owners in the Finger Lakes have been asking Governor Cuomo for a meeting to discuss their concerns about fracking. A letter requesting a meeting signed by more than 50 wineries never received a response from the Governor’s office.
“A major part of the sustainable economy of the Finger Lakes is tourism. Hydrofracking here would permanently destroy many more long term jobs than it could ever create. Once the fracking trucks start rolling in an area, the tourism economy there will grind to a halt, killing nearly every tourism related job,” said Art Hunt, owner of Hunt Country Vineyards near Keuka Lake. “Currently, the Finger Lakes has fertile soil, clean air and abundant clean water. As the western US runs out of reliable water, the Finger Lakes will become vital to the food production of this country. We cannot afford to lose any more farmland to any type of development.”
“After seeing the impact of this industrial activity in Pennsylvania, I have no doubt that it would irreparably damage all the work we have done to portray the Finger Lakes as a pristine, beautiful place to visit. The heavy truck traffic we could expect on our country roads will be similar to that in major cities. This will definitely keep tourists away. If there are spills and accidents as there have been in PA, tourists will stay away if they think there might be health hazards,” said Pete Saltonstall, owner King Ferry Winery on Cayuga Lake.
The Baseball Hall of Fame has also expressed opposition to fracking through a statement in support of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce resolution against fracking.
The Baseball Hall of Fame issued the following statement in 2011:
“As an American treasure, and the cornerstone to this region since 1939, the Museum and county would undoubtedly suffer repercussions in the event of problems from hydrofracking—or even the perception thereof… A significant drop in visitorship could severely impact the Hall of Fame on many fronts, from day-to-day operations to staffing levels, while also leading to a significant decrease in tourism-related revenue for the village, county and state. Like the Chamber of Commerce and virtually every other area business, the Museum concludes that hydrofracking could present an unacceptable risk to the local environment, the economy and the quality of life for both local residents and tourists.”
"The tourist industry in the Finger Lakes region of New York state is over a 3 billion dollar industry, with one of the main centerpieces being the wine industry. This is a renewable sustainable industry that we can pass on to future generations. The wine industry to some degree is in its infancy and will see nothing but growth over the next few decades, if we help it. Vineyards, wineries and tourism all depend on a fragile ecosystem that needs our help," said Louis Damiani, owner of Damiani Wine Cellars.
"To develop this area as a fracking and industrialized area can negatively impact this if not altogether ruin it for short term gains. If we develop fracking in areas close to the Finger Lakes it will still spill over and harm us. I implore Governor Andrew Cuomo to reconsider his position and do the right thing not the political right thing but the smarter, more ethical, more sustainable and yes, the better economical move and ban fracking in New York state," said Damiani.
“Governor Cuomo, the tourism industry is bringing in enormous revenue, the fifth leading revenue producer in NY. Our coalition of accommodation owners agrees that a clean, green New York is the direction that our tourism industry needs to take to have sustained growth. We believe that the fracking industry is in opposition to what we would like to see, which is for New York State to be the first green state in the Union,” said Alicia Alexander, owner of Amazing Grace Bed & Breakfast
As the fifth largest employment sector in New York state, the tourism industry provided nearly 700,000 jobs and approximately $17 billion in wages in 2011. Tourism is also a major source of revenue for New York, generating more than $7 billion for the state. The tourism industry depends on clean air and water, as well as an environmental quality of life that fracking would disrupt. Toxic byproducts from the fracking process often pollute the watershed and damage agriculture, putting growing tourism industries at risk.
In the Southern Tier, where fracking interests are targeting politicians with intense lobbying and political spending, visitors spent more than $239 million and the tourism industry generated $31 million in tax revenue and more than 4,600 jobs.
In other areas where fracking already exists, the arrival of gas workers has strained short-term accommodations during peak tourism season, since busy season for drilling occurs in the warmer months. It has created conflicts for tourism planners and officials and can paradoxically undercut the hotel room tax rate that is crucial to revenues that fund tourism services in the Southern Tier, because gas workers would likely stay in hotels long enough to avoid paying the tax.
In the Central Catskills, outdoor recreational activities attracted a total of nearly 2.5 million visitors to the region, creating an economic impact of more than $114 million.
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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.