Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo paved the way for sustainability and modern social justice with an unprecedented ban on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
“I’ve never had anyone say to me, ‘I believe fracking is great,’ ” he said. “Not a single person in those communities. What I get is, ‘I have no alternative but fracking.’ ”
The fracking was initially planned to take place on Pennsylvania’s border, in some of New York’s most depressed communities. Fracking is a technique used to release natural gas from the ground, and involves the use of a cocktail of toxic chemicals. At the moment, New York is the only state to ban it.
We can learn a lot from our neighbor. As in Pennsylvania, fracking in New York was seen as not only inevitable, but also highly controversial. It’s been reported that Cuomo was constantly surrounded by “fractivists” trying to push their agenda.
Furthermore, much of this victory in New York was thanks to efficient and effective organizing by multiple grassroots organizations, like Food and Water Watch. As a volunteer-driven organization, this gives us at 350 Philly hope.
It’s an uphill battle, but as the People’s Climate March showed us in September, there are millions of people around the world who can be mobilized, and hundreds of thousands more locally who would be willing to stand up to fracking, if given the chance.
Pennsylvania and New York are both considered “Shale States” because they both sit atop the Marcellus Shale, one of the world’s most sizable reserves of natural gas. But unlike Cuomo, Pennsylvania Governor-Elect Wolf “is floating a severance tax as a way for the state to make money off fracking, rather than taking on this dangerous practice.” And let’s not forget that there are plans to turn our beloved Philadelphia into the next energy hub.
Even from a non-environmental standpoint, fracking is not an economically sound practice. Even the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t expected to create many jobs—a recent estimate has the number of permanent jobs at just 50. That same report predicted that even the number of temporary construction jobs would just be a drop in the bucket. For the smaller, more local pipelines, we have no reason to believe job growth would be much better.
Alternatively, we could invest in green jobs and infrastructure, which would employ more people, result in fewer public health crises like that in Dimock Pennsylvania, and make us less dependent on other countries. But that’s just a thought.
Ultimately, we should be keeping an eye on New York to see how they sustain the ban and choose to grow the economy. They are taking an alternative route, so they may very well be our model.
Most importantly, we should feel empowered. We now know it’s possible for an entire state to divest, and that enough concerned citizens can make all the difference. It’s a snowball effect: the more powerhouse states like New York say no to fracking, the more pressure Wolf will likely feel to listen to local environmentalists like ourselves.