Last week those of us on his mailing list received a letter from Governor Andrew Cuomo. It opened:
Dear Fellow New Yorker,
The illegal use of bath salts and other synthetic drugs has become increasingly widespread and poses a serious threat to public health and safety in New York State. This year, there have already been 191 emergency room visits in upstate New York as a result of using bath salts. These visits show a drastic increase from the 39 reported visits in 2011.
To combat this dangerous rise in synthetic drug use, Governor Cuomo announced new regulations yesterday that will help our law enforcement keep these harmful substances from being sold and distributed in New York.
Reading it, I almost spit out my tea.
Governor Cuomo, we can't fathom your thinking. There have been 191 visits to emergency rooms because of designer drugs, and you are taking action to ban their use in New York State?
Uh, while that seems like a good thing, in the context of other threats, it's patently absurd.
You protect people from designer drugs, yet you are apparently ready to begin permitting something that will cause a lot more than 191 emergency room visits per year: the filthy, dangerous, chemical- and poison-laden fossil-fuel-extraction process of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Fracking (the entire process from exploration to the kitchen stove pilot light) involves so many toxins it's impossible to list them all, and they include the heavy metals and naturally occurring radioactive materials brought up from deep underground in the process.
The process of extraction is horrifically dangerous and has been shown to contaminate fresh water sources in every state where it is taking place. It is poisoning, sickening, and in some cases killing people and non-human animals, as well as plants and even entire ecosystems (Kalamazoo River, Dunkard Creek). There is no place on Earth (let alone in New York State) to sequester the waste. Yet New York State county landfills (such as Chemung's) are accepting drill cuttings, which contain radioactive materials. This is simply insane.
This process is not only highly dangerous to human health; it also contributes mightily to global warming and hastens catastrophic climate change. At a time when more than 50 percent of U.S. counties have been named disaster areas by the federal government, and in a year when New York State itself had many areas listed as disaster areas because of flooding (especially the Southern Tier, which you are supposedly ready to "sacrifice" to fracking), it is irresponsible at best to permit fracking anywhere in the state.
Governor Cuomo, if you have not yet visited Bradford and Susquehanna Counties in Pennsylvania to see for yourself how our beautiful, peaceful New York State would be transformed by fracking, you need to get down there now. Our friends and allies in the fight to outlaw fracking in New York State (of whom there are now tens of thousands, and growing daily as people learn of fracking's harms) will be happy to host you as you visit our neighbors in Pennsylvania. Our Pennsylvania brothers and sisters feel that they are in a war zone, barraged daily in their homes and communities by traffic, fetid air, poisoned water wells, strangers, higher rents, ugliness, noise, night lights, gas flaring, and "unexplained" illnesses that "can't be connected to gas drilling." They are eager to show you around and welcome you with some local hospitality.
Governor, we know you are a busy man. But there is really nothing more important—not the budget, not government efficiency, not cybercrime, not even public education, and certainly not designer bath-salts drugs — than fracking (except perhaps eliminating corporate personhood and removing money from the electoral process).
Mr. Cuomo, I personally have written two public letters to you that were widely circulated and forwarded to you by many people. I have written at least a dozen letters to you personally. I find it insultying and telling that have never received an acknowledgment of a single one of them.
Perhaps a resident of the Southern Tier, even as a cofounder of five grassroots groups, is not worth responding to. Maybe only funded entities are considered worthy of response. And as an independent journalist, I obviously do not have the clout of a corporate "mainstream" media employee. My friends don't receive responses to their thousands of letters telling you they don't want fracking to destroy our state, either.
Yet you seem to make time for the Big Gas/Big Oil corporate types that would forever destroy our way of life. You apparently do think of us as expendable. You apparently do care more for personal wealth and power than you do for democratic process and protecting the health, safety, and well-being of the people, as you were elected to do.
But perhaps all the reports we're hearing from Albany and from the DEC are false, and you really have got our best interests at heart.
Perhaps you're just too busy trying to build a case for making fracking a crime in New York State law and for creating a revolutionary statewide economic and energy structure that involves buildings insulation, conservation, and rehabilitation as well as a rapid mandatory switch to renewable energy and highly efficient transportation systems -- which would create long-term jobs while ensuring your legacy as a visionary leader. You'd become a hero to all those who want to protect this planet on which we exist so precariously, who want their children, grandchildren, and coming generations to have something to live for.
In that case, Mr. Governor, I certainly won't feel slighted that you haven't taken the time to respond to me or to the thousands of grassroots groups and individuals who call and write you daily pleading that you not doom us all to the hell of fracking.
But if you are busy plotting in that way, be assured, Mr. Governor, we will not be damned. We will not be fracked. We say NO to fracking. We hope you understand that simple word. We mean it.