Ad war rages in New York over fracking

By Casey Seiler
Albany Times Union

ALBANY, N.Y. — Groups opposed to opening New York to hydraulic fracturing brought Pennsylvania residents to a press conference this week to share their allegations of health and environmental damage that they believe resulted from the controversial technology.

The news conference also unveiled a new TV spot that New Yorkers Against Fracking said would be running in the Albany and New York City markets, the latest move in a fracking ad war that in the Northeast.

“Tell Gov. Cuomo: Learn from Pennsylvania, ban fracking,” the script concludes.

One of those featured in the ad is Terry Greenwood, a farmer from southwestern Pennsylvania who believes his cattle were harmed by drinking from a pond contaminated by nearby fracking operations.

“You’re better off to keep them out of this state,” he said of drilling companies. “Water’s more important than gas.”

Prominent anti-fracking activist Sandra Steingraber bemoaned the dearth of comprehensive research on the possible effects of fracking. Instead, she said, “What we have is a hypothesis” that the process causes damage to humans and the environment.

A spokesman for New York’s leading pro-fracking group didn’t try to pick the first-person accounts apart one by one. “I can’t speak to the experiences of the folks from Pennsylvania who are featured on the television ad, but New York has long been ahead of other states in regulating industry and protecting the environment,” said James Smith, spokesman for the state Independent Oil & Gas Association.

The New Yorkers Against Fracking ad comes on the heels of a campaign by the New York State Petroleum Council, an arm of the American Petroleum Institute that is pressuring Gov. Cuomo to lift the fracking ban.

The state Department of Health and outside experts are currently reviewing DEC’s health impact study on hydrofracking, a chapter in the agency’s years-in-the-making impact statement that could serve as the regulatory blueprint for the drilling technique if the state decides to allow it.

Also Wednesday, DOH Commissioner Nirav Shah found himself answering questions about his agency’s health review inside and outside a joint legislative hearing on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal.

Some were critical of Shah for saying his department is undertaking a “review” of the issue when Cuomo has described it as a “study.” Shah said a study is what a scientist would do, while a review looks at existing studies and literature.

Leaving the hearing, Shah was trailed by Julia Walsh, founder of Frack Action and a participant in the news conference, who told Shah his reputation was at stake.