As breweries and vintners from across the state gather in Albany today for the first-ever New York State Wine, Beer & Spirits Summit, a brewery operator and a winery owner held a press conference this morning calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban hydrofracking for natural gas.
Larry Bennett, communications director for Brewery Ommegang near Cooperstown and an outspoken critic of fracking, said the “ground rules” laid out for the summit prohibited speaking about hydrofracking and the hot-button issue of wine in grocery stores during the panel discussion with the governor. (That discussion is underway now, and can be viewed live here.)
“Those were the two ground rules I was told: no talking about hydrofracking and no talking about wine sales in grocery stores,” Bennett said prior to the summit. “This was passed on through the New York state brewer’s organization, who worked with Cuomo in organizing this.”
When asked about the “ground rules,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said simply: “Not true.”
The Cuomo administration is faced with making a decision on whether to allow high-volume hydrofracking in New York. The technique has been on hold in the state while the state Department of Environmental Conservation—and now, the Department of Health—complete a review of the process.
Brewery Ommegang, in the town of Middlefield, Otsego County, sits about two miles down the road from a dairy farm that has sued the town over its municipal ban on gas drilling. Bennett has said the brewery may have to leave the state if gas-drilling operations have an adverse impact on its water quality.
“We want to influence Cuomo,” Bennett said. “We’re not here to bang on him; we want him to make the right decision.”
The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, meanwhile, also used the booze summit to advance its case this morning, sending a letter to Cuomo calling for a “natural gas and oildevelopment summit.”
“I believe that a summit to hear ideas from industry leaders, large natural gas users and other stakeholders willhelp ensure that the natural gas industry continues to grow and create jobs in New York,” Brad Gill, IOGA’s executive director, wrote to Cuomo.
Bennett’s comments can be viewed below, followed by Gill’s letter in full.