October 21, 2013
Students bike against fracking
SUNY Cortland NYPIRG chapter joins national protests
About 10 SUNY Cortland students biked from the college campus to a meet the candidates forum at the Elks Lodge Saturday morning as part of a showing for “Global Frackdown” day, a day of shale gas exploration protests.
Jessica Johnnes, New York Public Interest Research Group project coordinator, was mobilizing the students at the SUNY campus early Saturday morning, signing up riders and posting signs about the event. NYPIRG is a student run organization that has 20 campus chapters across New York state.
The event was carried out in collaboration with the local anti-fracking group Gas Drilling Awareness of Cortland County.
Johnnes said about six students were signed up to ride to the Elks Lodge to express their opposition to fracking at the local candidates forum, but some community members joined the effort as well.
Mary Ann and Joseph Maggio approached the group before the ride, saying they wanted to support the initiative since they recently bought a house in Tully and are concerned about natural gas exploration.
They did not ride but attended the meet the candidates forum along with the students, who showed up in a group, many of them wearing anti-fracking attire.
“I think there’s a lot of people who don’t understand the issue and how it impacts the environment,” said Mary Ann Maggio.
She said the land she and her husband bought has a gas lease on it but they will follow the proper steps to make sure it expires at the end of its term in two years.
Fracking, which injects chemically-treated water underground to extract shale gas, has been on hold in New York as the state finalizes rules and conducts a health study.
Gas companies have faulted the state for harboring what they call a hostile attitude to a process that they say has been practiced safely for years in other states.
But Maggio said gas drilling is shortsighted and harmful to the environment, with many long-term negative consequences for a short-term gain.
“They are putting money into something that doesn’t have a future, they will dig up things and rip apart and possibly damage the environment,” she said, adding there might only be about 10 years worth of profit from the resources.
Johnnes said the purpose of the event was to encourage the candidates to implement a local ban on fracking in the county as well as raise awareness about fracking.
Solon resident Todd Miller also biked with the students, saying he appreciated the academic community taking notice of the issue.
Miller said he wanted to raise awareness that the community could be severely impacted by fracking, from an environmental and health safety point of view.
“One aspect that has been missing in the anti-fracking movement is the youth participation, so it is nice to see the youth getting involved,” Miller said.
SUNY Cortland sophomore Zachary Allen was also riding to show his opposition to the gas drilling.
“I feel like there’s not much known about it and we need more time to find out about the process,” Allen said.
Cortlandville resident Pam Jenkins attended the meet the candidates event wearing a makeshift milk carton costume that read farmland, not frackland.
Jenkins said she wanted to impress upon candidates the fact that there are so many dairy herds in the county that could be impacted by fracking, which she said could potentially pollute water sources and affect the way of life in the community.
After the forum, Johnnes and Allen said they were pleased to hear the city would not be accepting the byproducts of fracking, since candidates told them the Wastewater Treatment Plant would not accept frack fluids.
But both also want to see the county do more on the issue.
“I want the county as a whole to make sure they don’t sell water or bring frack waste into the county,” Johnnes said. “We need to have answers to what will happen in the county.”
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