NYPIRG Versus Cuomo’s Hydro-Fracking

Students Fight To Preserve New York’s Clean Water Supply

by Jeremy Pasker

CSI’s NYPIRG applied pressure to Governor Cuomo over his 2014 Draft State Energy Plan during the campus’ observance of Green Week.

The unaffiliated interest group worries that the amount of natural gas New York State intends to produce is impossible without introducing hydro fracking.

The coordinator of NYPIRG Aubrey M Letheridge admits the document doesn’t mention fracking by name but is adamant that the natural gas energy levels the 2014 Energy Plan hopes to extract is impossible without it.

“Fracking is incredibly dangerous to our drinking water,” maintained Deana Desio a Freshman Education Major and NYPIRG member who was very active at gathering signatures against fracking during Green Week. “[Fracking] is very volatile and dangerous. In Pennsylvania and other States there have been people who [have] set there water on fire.”

As of late, there has been a moratorium on fracking but the new energy plan threatens to upend that.

The mission to salvage New York’s clean water started off with a four day tabling event. Two hundred students were enlisted to call into Governor Cuomo’s office. The students appealed with his office answering machine to not follow through on any plans to drill into the earth with water mixed with sand and chemicals (some of which are unknown) at high pressures to create fractures to bleed the earth of petroleum and uranium.

During Green Week NYPIRG tackled the fracking problem at several fronts. Alongside the phone calls to Cuomo’s office, the non partisan interest group screened a miniature film on the ails of fracking. This was all coordinated with New Yorkers Against Fracking. Short of convincing Governor Cuomo, the object is to tie the plans in “red tape” while a more comprehensive plan is developed.

“We made eye catching posters and [wrote with] chalk [on the cement] outside by the fountain to make brief short messages to capture the most attention,” said Corey Orazem a CSI Senior Political Science major and NYPIRG project leader. Some of their anti fracking messages reached and spread across social media.

NYPIRG let it be known of the apparent conflict between the 2014 Energy Plan’s asserted goals of “a cleaner environment” and “improved energy affordability” with the stated goals to increase natural gas consumption particularly by tripling natural gas production from shale deposits.

What motivates NYPIRG to act are what they know to be fracking’s environmental impacts. Among them are the amounts of methane emissions released into the environment by the fracking process.

NYPIRG fears those increases in methane emissions will prevent the state from following through on the States mentioned goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.

Again NYPIRG argues that methane is a far more potent climate change agent than carbon dioxide. The interest group also fears by not acknowledging the methane concerns in the energy draft the problems with fracking will be overlooked or ignored outright.

“Fracking will only cause damage in the short term and the long term,” said Corey Orazem.”All who support fracking are paid by oil companies.”

There are consumer impacts, other than environmental ones, which will have an impact on the State of New York, such as speculative pricing solely dependant on whether laws and regulations remain “generally” unchanged. Price spikes could very well be a downside to relying on an energy market that as of yet is very much unregulated. Regulation would cause companies to compensate. Ironically, regulation is what the people of New York demand due to how uncertain the safety of fracking is.

The 2014 Energy Plan does mention the increased export of natural gas could result in market price volatility. Still the Energy Plan’s commitment to only monitor the market situation without a detailed counter deterrent concerns the public interest group.

NYPIRG unequivocally asserts that they want New York to stop relying on natural gas and switch to the more efficient renewable energies.

There is a study by Stanford University scientist Mark Jacobson published in the journal Energy Policy last year discussing how New York can fully depend on renewables for all it’s energy needs.

In march of 2013 the Stanford News reported on the study claiming it to be “the first to develop a plan to fulfill all of a state’s transportation, electric power, industry, and heating and cooling energy needs with renewable energy, and to calculate the number of new devices and jobs created, amount of land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for such an infrastructure change.”

Aubrey Lethbridge testified before the NYS Energy Planning Board. During his testimony Lethbridge admired the State’s transition away from nuclear energy, although he stayed on script regarding hydrofracking. He further pleaded that the state reconsider its insistence to replace the nuclear power’s 2000 megawatts of power (enough power to run approx. 200,000 homes) with natural gas.

Lethbridge pointed to the more environmental friendly transmission upgrades, energy efficiency and renewable energy. He mentioned a 2012 Synapse Energy report for his reasonings.

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