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Don’t Frack on Me

Protestors turn out in large numbers to tell the governor they still oppose hydraulic fracturing

by Erin Pihlaja on June 19, 2013

Breaking point: Protestors at an Albany anti-fracking rally give Gov. Cuomo a not-so-subtle warning.

In the largest anti-fracking showing in Albany yet, several thousand people organized at the Capitol on Monday (June 17), in another attempt to persuade Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban hydraulic fracturing in New York state.

Whether he has been waiting on scientific evidence or the passing of another election season, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to take a formal stance on the controversial process that extracts gas from underground shale formations by injecting fluids, including chemicals, deep into the Earth at high pressure to fracture the rock. Opponents say that this process is risky, and negative effects would include the destruction of two of New York state’s natural resources, land and clean water.

Singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant kicked off the rally, attended by a diverse crowd, with a rendition of “This Land Is Your Land,” and performed other songs throughout the event. Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens), actress Debra Winger, and Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation were also at the gathering.

At one point, crowd members raised their fists in the air and recited the Pledge to Resist Fracking in New York, led by a speaker who told the crowd that, in essence, taking the oath made them modern-day minutemen, who would be ready at a moment’s notice to join actions against fracking. While the pledge united those who signed and recited it in the resolve to perform nonviolent acts of civil disobedience as their own consciences saw fit, some in the movement are ready to do whatever it takes to stop fracking.

“We will dismantle the pipeline,” read one banner created by Deep Green Resistance New York, a grassroots organization. From DGR’s website: “The goal of DGR is to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet. This will require defending and rebuilding just and sustainable human communities nestled inside repaired and restored landbases. This is a vast undertaking but it needs to be said: it can be done. Industrial civilization can be stopped.”

The group has outlined a two-part strategy: One is “aboveground” and includes protests like Monday’s, and the other is “underground.” The latter is vaguely explained on the website, which in part states: “And in any resistance scenario, the underground dismantles the strategic infrastructure of power. This is a basic tactic of both militaries and insurgents the world over for the simple reason that it works.”

Other groups that were represented on Monday were vocal about what the repercussions of fracking in New York might be.

“Governor Cuomo, I would rather wear an orange jumpsuit that watch my children wear a blue hospital gown, wouldn’t you?” asked activist Sandra Steingraber, who was jailed this March for blocking the entrance to a western New York natural gas facility to protest “the industrialization of the Finger Lakes.”

“Governor Cuomo,” she continued. “The whole world can see us. I know this because my own inbox is full of messages of solidarity from all over the nation. Yesterday I received an inquiry from a member of parliament in the European Union about our plans for New York. Governor Cuomo, how I respond to my e-mail depends on your sense of direction.”

Phil Aroneanu, of 350.org, spoke of a “growing movement to divest our pensions, our cities, our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, our museums, and our colleges from fossil fuel companies altogether.”

He also talked of the damage inflicted last year by Hurricane Sandy. “Climate change isn’t the future, the storm surges that destroyed homes and livelihoods and the waves that washed through the subway tunnels show that the climate had changed already,” he said, and then urged Cuomo to invest in solar and wind energy, and geothermal and tidal power.

“It’s time for all of us to stand up and say, ‘We’re not drowning, we’re fighting,’” he shouted to the crowd.

“First of all,” said Jim Dean, chairman of Democracy for America and brother to former presidential candidate Howard Dean, “let us not forget who we’re dealing with, we are dealing with big business, the energy industry. They have a long history of not paying the taxes that they have agreed to pay themselves. Don’t take my word for that; just ask any taxpayer in the state of California, which has had a long history of dealing with big oil that doesn’t pay their fair share of taxes. They have a long history of evading responsibility when things go wrong, and you don’t have to take my word for that, just go ask the fishing fleet in Alaska and see what they have to say about how they were treated when dealing with Exxon.”

“We are facing another potentially disastrous situation, make no mistake about it,” warned retired upstate Congressman Maurice Hinchey. “Fracking has become one of the most important environmental issues of our time. We’ll have devastating negative consequences if we are not able to stop it—and we are able to stop it—and we need to do it.”

He added: “We have got to stop this before it starts. New York should not be kowtowing to big business and the gas industry, especially when we know their primary interest is profit.”

Arun Gandhi, grandson to iconic activist Mohandas Gandhi, spoke quietly but resolutely to the crowd. “I have been going to India, and studying this issue and I am surprised that uneducated women from the villages who’ve lived and grown up in poverty have been taught to make solar panels . . . and these women have gone out and electrified hundred of villages in India. . . . I don’t understand why the most powerful state in the United States and the most powerful country in the world . . . is unable to use solar energy to electrify in this country.”

He urged Gov. Cuomo to “take a lesson from these poor uneducated women in India.” As he closed his speech, his voice grew louder.

“This country has been hijacked. It’s no longer a democracy; it’s become a dollar-cracy. We have to take back our country. If we make a loud enough voice, that will happen.”