At the urging of Julia Walsh — activist and project director of Frack Attack — I contacted New York State Sen. Thompson’s office to speak at the State Senate Environmental Commission meeting in Albany. Public comment is not allowed on a bill that is not on the agenda. However, I was fortunate enough to be given special privilege to speak on behalf of environmental groups on the need for a moratorium on issuing DEC permits for hydrofracking.
I would like to share what I said at the meeting. It is imperative that people start to educate themselves on a critically important environmental issue confronting the state and nation:
“I am here on behalf of many organizations to speak about a bill that is not on the agenda but should be: The Englebright/Addabbo bill, which would put a moratorium in place on issuing gas drilling permits until the federal government concludes their scientific study.
“Last week a New York City public school had antifreeze fed into the school’s water system causing the children to drink contaminated water out of the fountains. The children were rushed to the hospital.
“Now imagine that the water was contaminated with toluene, ethylene, methane and 500-plus other undisclosed chemicals that are used in horizontal gas drilling. If this were to happen, I am not so sure these kids would get out of the hospital.
“Yesterday, Congressman Hinchey spoke about 14 homes in Pennsylvania that had their wells closed due to water contamination from hydrofracking.
“And recently there were explosions from gas wells in Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia that killed and burned many workers and produced flames to shoot up over 70 feet high and seen for miles.
“Six states have documented a total of approximately 1,000 specific cases of water pollution attributable to hydrofracking technology. The former administration in Washington declared the practice — and the toxic water — off limits to the scrutiny of the EPA.
“This action led the states to fend for themselves, despite the limited financial resources.
“The Hudson Valley Business Journal states that if industry plans are ultimately approved, an estimated 200,000 wells will be sunk in central New York and Sullivan County.
“New York has a total of 17 inspectors to cover all safe water enforcement investigations throughout the state.
“The EPA has agreed to take another look at the potential adverse impacts that hydrofracking may have on water quality and public health.
“We owe it to the people of New York to let the experts conduct their study.
“We all understand New York is in a fiscal crisis. However, selling out our most precious commodity — our liquid gold — is not the answer.
“As a matter of fact, New York’s fiscal crisis makes it more imperative that you enact this bill. Without the resources to manage this activity, there is a pretty good chance that disaster will happen, causing the state additional massive financial burden.
“The potential destruction of New York’s drinking water is too important to play politics with.
“Our children’s health and future cannot be for sale.
“I am asking on behalf of all the organizations I am here representing to put your name on this bill and do everything in your power to bring this to the floor this legislative session and see it become law. With the Assembly already stepping up to the plate, it is now up to all of you.
“On behalf of all of the following organizations and myself, thank you for giving us this time.”
Ulster County Legislator Susan Zimet
on behalf of Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter; NYH20; Damascus Citizens; Riverkeeper; Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Powershift New York; Earth Day NY; Sustainable Otsego; Otsego 2000 of Cooperstown, New York; People for a Healthy Environment, Inc.; The Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes; Keep Cochecton Green; Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition; New Yorkers for Sustainable Energy Solutions Statewide; and ROUSE — Residents Opposing Unsafe Shale-Gas Extraction.
Why the King’s Inn matters
One look at the King’s Inn and a reasonable person asks, “Does no one care what this neighborhood looks like?” It turns out a lot of people care. The 20 architects who have volunteered for the Business Alliance of Kingston’s July 16 design charrette have formed 10 teams, comprising local residents and business owners and a slew of newfangled green building professionals, a number of whom received their training at our own leading green-tech institution, SUNY Ulster. Some of the professionals are local, some are not, but you don’t need to be from Kingston to recognize the SOS signal the King’s Inn is sending out.
Will we find the answer to this blight over bagels, coffee, sketch pads and easels? Not sure, but when The Business Alliance conducted five focus groups this spring – tapping the wisdom of more than 100 residents, building owners, restaurateurs, artists and business owners — we heard over and again that “someone should do something, NOW.”
When we pressed for specifics, we heard that Kingstonians want to embrace their evolving image as friendly to the arts, and as an incubator for a re-purposed economy fueled by solar and green-tech companies. Anything to encourage more artists and other professionals to move here would be a good thing, they said. Artists certainly include creative people like the Digital Corridor advocates and the cluster of New Media people bustling around in 721 Media Center in the Ellenbogens’ lovely space. They’re here already, we just need to encourage and improve the environment that drew them here so that others will follow.
We’ve been told it’s premature to host a design charrette when there’s no developer in sight. We can’t dress up the King’s Inn when potential investors come looking; it looks awful. What we can do is demonstrate the tremendous human capital that’s invested in Kingston, even if our real estate hasn’t caught up yet. Developers need to see market potential for an investment, and on Friday we’re going to illustrate that we’re here, we welcome others here, and we want this place to work again. We recognize the serious financial strain the city is under, but more drug stores and dollar stores are not the answer; let’s look at some new, fresh ideas for what could work.
Pat Courtney Strong
President, Business Alliance of Kingston