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Activists speak out at Albany Common Council meeting

October 4, 2011

by Chad Gamboa

(Chad Gamboa)

A group of more than a dozen activists crowded the Common Council meeting Monday evening to voice their concern about hydraulic-fracturing or ‘fracking’ in the city of Albany and the surrounding region.

No city legislation has been passed yet regarding fracking. All of the grievances were addressed during the public commentary part of the meeting, which was extended an extra half hour.

The move was an attempt to raise awareness about what many Albany residents think about fracking before the council votes on the matter October 17. Still, the number of protesters attending the meeting, many of whom were students, firmly captured the attention of the council.

“Ordinances have been introduced to ban fracking and also to keep their cuttings, the solid fracking waste, out of the Rapp Road Landfill,” said Siobhan Burke, co-founder of Capital District Against Fracking.

“We’re seeing fast water withdrawals from municipal water resources being sold into Pennsylvania for drilling operations where that water is permanently contaminated and then being sent back to New York state municipal water treatment plants in order to process it,” said Burke.

“Essentially what we’re addressing is the fact that Governor Cuomo banned fracking in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds,” said Daniel Morrissey, founder and director of Water Equality, a group which works with local and state organizations to permanently ban fracking in New York state.

Hydraulic fracturing is the process used by “gas producers to stimulate wells and recover natural gas from sources such as coalbeds and shale gas formations,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency

Despite the potential benefits of hydraulic fracturing, the EPA has said that fracking has the potential to affect “drinking water resources, public health, and environmental impacts in the vicinity of these facilities.”

“Radiation that’s locked up in the shale bed gets into the water supply…through the natural liniments and cracks and fissures in the earth,” said Morrissey. “It’s pulled up by people’s drinking wells, their water wells and they can light their water on fire, and they ingest it when they drink that water.”

The Common Council still needs to study the issues surrounding the fracking question, said Dominick Calsolaro, a member of the Common Council. “I think when we weigh everything it may not be all that advantageous when you look at the environmental impacts.”

The presence of activists at the Common Council meeting was a wise move, said Barbara Smith, a council member. Their presence makes council members aware of the issues while they contemplate a decision that  “will affect everybody in the city and the surrounding region.” -30-

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