Several hundred supporters of hydraulic fracturing marched outside of the state Capitol on Monday in an attempt to dial up pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
A host of landowner groups and representatives from the natural-gas and construction industries joined Southern Tier elected officials at the rally. Most expressed their displeasure with a recently announced delay to a decision on whether to allow high-volume hydrofracking to proceed in New York.
“This has been going on for four years and everybody who knows me knows that I believe in safe and responsible gas drilling,” said Broome County Executive Debbie Preston, a Republican. “I think it’s time to move forward.”
Preston was one of more than a dozen speakers, which also included Sens. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, and Thomas O’Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County; Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, R-Guilford, Chenango County; and various speakers representing businesses, landowners and the gas industry.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation first put high-volume hydrofracking on hold in 2008 as it launched an environmental review. Last month, the agency announced that a decision on the technique would be furthered delayed as the state Department of Health reviews the DEC’s report.
Tracy Slavitsky, director of regional sales for the Holiday Inn Arena in Binghamton, said occupancy at her hotel has been up by more than 20 percent since hydrofracking picked up substantially in nearby Pennsylvania in 2008.
“We have more people in our hotel than has been in that hotel since it opened 25 years ago because of shale-gas development in Pennsylvania,” Slavitsky told the crowd. “Governor Cuomo, put New York back to work! Let’s go!”
Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, said the state’s decision on hydrofracking “will be determined by the science and the facts.”
The rally was similar to one held in August by opponents of hydrofracking, who say the risks to the environment are too great to ignore. Much like the anti-fracking rally, the hydrofracking supporters marched Monday through the streets of Albany with a police escort, honking horns and chanting as onlookers snapped photos with their cell phones.
David Van Luven, director of Environment New York, was critical of the rally’s message.
“The practice is too dangerous and too costly for all New Yorkers, and it’s time to just say ‘no’ and keep it permanently out of our beautiful state,” he said.