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Drilling supporters and opposition press their case as Cuomo visits




Isaac Silberman-Gorn, a member of Citizens Action, left, and Walter Hang, of Toxics Targeting, right, join anti-fracking protesters on the Binghamton University campus Thursday morning. JEFF RICHARDS / CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

VESTAL — While Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to Binghamton University on Thursday to tout his Tax-Free NY initiative, about 50 protesters were focused on another topic: shale gas fracking.

The protesters camped outside the University Union East building, where Cuomo spoke, and held signs voicing their opposition to fracking in New York, often chanting anti-drilling slogans.

“This can not be done safely, and we don’t want it here in our community,” said Isaac Silberman-Gorn, environmental organizer at Citizen Action of New York.

While the opposition was pressing its case at Cuomo’s local appearance, landowner groups were trying to rally support in Albany. The state’s largest coalition of pro-drilling landowners hosted a forum Thursday, making the case for the soundness of hydraulic fracturing to an audience that featured lawmakers from both houses.

The panel discussion was billed as a response to Cuomo’s recent criticism of pro-fracking groups for not doing more to educate the public and allay concerns raised over the safety of shale-gas drilling.

Last week, Cuomo said he will make a decision on the fate of natural gas drilling in New York before the 2014 election. The governor is awaiting the completion of a review by State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah.

Though Cuomo’s presentation at BU was on his tax-free initiative, he addressed the fracking debate when pressed by reporters following his economic development talk. He repeated his common line on the topic, saying the decision is one that should be made based on science rather than emotion.

“The DEC commissioner and the health commissioner are analyzing the data and when they have a decision, that will be the decision and the path the state follows,” Cuomo said.

Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, which is headquartered in Ithaca, said the health commissioner’s review is improper, as it is being completed without public input. “The governor is simply not listening.”

Libous vows to block vote on fracking moratorium

ALBANY — A top Senate Republican on Thursday said he will fight to keep a potential moratorium on hydraulic fracturing from getting a vote in the state Senate.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said his goal is to “make sure no (moratorium) bill passes the Senate.”

Libous, a staunch fracking supporter whose district sits within the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, said he doesn’t want to see the issue on the Senate floor for a vote.

“I’m going to try to make sure that it doesn’t,” he said Thursday. “I feel that strongly on that issue.”

Fracking opponents want a say in the state's review of health impacts

BINGHAMTON — Opponents of hydrofracking in New York are asking for a say in the state’s review of its public health impacts.

Binghamton Mayor Matthew T. Ryan and other opponents of natural gas drilling on Tuesday called for formal public participation and other revisions to the New York State Department of Health’s review of hydrofracking.

“The problem with that entire proceeding is it is being undertaken completely in secret,” said Walter Hang, president of Ithaca-based Toxics Targeting. “There has never been a piece of paper released to the public about the scope of the health review, about how it’s being undertaken, about what its critical issues are.”

More than 1,000 drilling opponents, including several public officials, have signed on to a letter asking for formal written notice of what the Department of Health’s review involves, a minimum of 30 days of written review and comment on the review and at least one public hearing where interested parties can testify about how the review should be conducted.

“If it’s ever going to be done in our state, we need to make sure that there’s integrity in the process,” Ryan said Tuesday.

Lifton calls for further, public fracking review

ALBANY — State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, joined with 65 lawmakers to support putting hydrofracking’s health review on hold, so there can be public review and comment on the process.

Lifton called the Department of Health review "unacceptably inadequate.”

DEC's actual fracking decision deadline could be Feb. 13

ALBANY — New York regulators may have to signal a decision on hydraulic fracturing by Feb. 13 if they hope to meet an end-of-the-month deadline for finalizing a set of proposed regulations.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation faces a Feb. 27 deadline to either finalize the planned hydrofracking rules or allow them to expire.

Fracking not mentioned in speech

ALBANY — More than 1,000 protesters lined a pathway on Wednesday, chanting and wielding signs as lawmakers and lobbyists made their way to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s third State of the State address.

Cuomo’s 80-minute speech, however, had nary a mention of the topic they were protesting: hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Lupardo wants N.Y. fracking panel to reconvene


A Binghamton-area Assemblywoman penned a letter to the state’s top environmentalregulator Wednesday, urging him to call a meeting of the state’s High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel — a once-touted committee of interested parties that hasn’t met in nearly a year.

Abandoned gas wells dot Southern Tier, activist says

Steuben County is home to 619 unplugged and abandoned gas, oil and other wells that are a threat to public health and safety, according to the head of an Ithaca-based environmental database firm.

Another 41 of these wells are in Chemung County, 46 in Tompkins County, 11 in Broome County and seven in Tioga County, said Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting Inc.

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