Sandra Steingraber: Next 12 Steps to Stop Fracking in New York
You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. — Mahatma Gandhi
1. I am writing you from an airport in Wisconsin.
People here, and across the river in Minnesota, are trying desperately to halt the strip mining of their communities for frac-sand. Trucks are rolling. Silica dust is flying. Hill by hill, bluff by bluff—the land itself is shoveled into railcars and shipped off to the gas fields of America where grains of silica sand are shot into the cracks of fractured bedrock so methane can flow out of it.
What’s left behind in Wisconsin and Minnesota are moonscapes and ruined water.
Citizens write, testify, protest. Mothers contemplate civil disobedience. Some have done it.
2. I’m calling you, again, to Albany, New York.
Once on Wednesday, Jan. 30 and a second time on Monday, Feb. 4. And you are not allowed to feel depressed about it.
Okay, you can feel depressed all you want, but you have to show up anyway. And you may have to get up in the middle of the night because we all need to be there by 8:30 a.m.
3. Three weeks ago, New Yorkers created a chanting, drumming wall of opposition to fracking that stretched a quarter mile down the Empire State Plaza concourse.
Every audience member en route to the governor’s speech was compelled to walk by the biggest demonstration on at any State of the State address in the history of New York.
Next we delivered 204,000 comments to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), all of them arrows aimed at the arbitrary, incoherent draft regulations on fracking—cynically released by the DEC as a legal maneuver to avoid blowing their own deadline. Given just 30 days over the holidays to read 328 pages of regulations and compose our thoughts, we broke all records for number of public comments submitted on any DEC topic. Ever.
4. Did you think that alone would be sufficient to stop the most powerful industry on Earth from fracking New York State?
5. The signs coming out of Albany do not say the answer is yes. Sorry.
6. What should we do? Give up? Or act like the citizen uprising that we are?
7. Here’s the plan:
First, sign the Pledge to Resist Fracking in New York State. Doing so is a solemn commitment to join with others in acts of peaceful, nonviolent protest—“as my conscience leads me”—should Governor Cuomo approve fracking in New York State. Invite others to sign. Let’s build a formidable wall of signatures. As of today, 6,500 names are on it. Let’s build it higher.
Next, on Wednesday, Jan. 30, come to the New York State Legislature budget hearing on health. Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah will testify at 9 a.m. Wear lab coats, scrubs, stethoscopes—anything that signifies medicine. Our friends at Frack Action will provide the tape to seal your mouth shut. (Facebook sign-up here.)
So silenced, we’ll protest the secret, hasty, improvisational nature of the state’s “health review” on fracking, which the Department of Health has prepared with no public input whatsoever, after rebuffing New York’s medical health professionals, and while subjecting the outside reviewers to gag orders. The message being: Halt the sGEIS (Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement). Show us the damn review.
Cameras will be rolling. Let’s pack Hearing Room B.
Even more important: Five days later, on Monday, Feb. 4: DEC Commissioner Joe Martens testifies at 9 a.m. Wear blue. Bring signs. Bring jars of water. Be ready to hold jars of water aloft. (Facebook sign up here.)
Cameras will be rolling. Let’s pack Hearing Room B with an overflowing crowd that swirls like a river and astonishes everyone, from the Albany press corps to all the governor’s men.
After Martens’ testimony, the really loud rally—no sgeis! no regs! no fracking!—begins at Noon in the Capitol’s elegant Million Dollar Staircase. You know the one—it’s the opening scene in the documentary film, Dear Governor Cuomo.
Which they loved, by the way, in Winona, Minnesota.
8. What the gas industry has: money, political access, paid lobbyists.
What we have: science, love, unrelenting resolve.
9. What to live up to:
In his second inaugural address, President Obama named three places where human rights were born. Seneca Falls. Selma. Stonewall.
Two belong to us.
10. What’s at stake:
Upstate New York’s homegrown resistance to high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing ... has continued to faceoff against the energy industry and state government in a way that may set the tone for the rest of the country in the decades ahead. In small hamlets and tiny towns you’ve never heard of, grassroots activists are making a stand in what could be the beginning of a final showdown for Earth’s future.
—Ellen Cantarow, “Frack Fight”
11. What to say to your friend when you ask her to come with you:
This is our moment. Perhaps you never thought you’d get a chance to play hero. Here it is.
–Audrey Schulman, “How to Be a Climate Hero”
12. I am writing to you from my own house.
I need to find a babysitter. I need to cash a check. I need to shelve a work project. I need to cook ahead. I need to cancel music lessons. I need to find a ride.
I will be with you in Albany. This is not fun. This is not easy.
The water that flows from my kitchen tap is the blood of my children.
I will meet you in Albany, Jan. 30 and again, and even more urgently, on Feb. 4. This is huge. This is it.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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