It might not be true that Gov. Cuomo will stop plans for fracking in New York State if he receives a million letters against the natural gas drilling technique, but the rumor is good news to folks like Doug Wood, who launched amillionfrackingletters.com back in September.
The site was set up to send hundreds of notes to Albany urging the Governor to ban hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Wood runs the Port Washington, Long Island-based nonprofit Grassroots Environmental Education with his wife Patti, and fracking has long been one of their touchstone issues. They got the idea for the campaign from a random comment likely made in jest from a Cuomo staffer: “A source inside the Governor’s office told us a few months ago,” he recounts, “that if we wanted to stop fracking, we would need to get ‘a million letters.’ That’s where the phrase and idea came from.”
The site was born, and since then, the initiative has been given anonymous donations for radio ads and been supported with outreach by dozens of like-minded groups. One of those is the Baum Forum, which hosted a panel on the issue last fall at the New School and launched their own campaign called Chefs for the Marcellus. That’s designed to get food professionals like Mario Batali to go on record against fracking due to its potential to disturb our foodshed.
The process would take place in a region of the state that lies atop a geologic formation called the Marcellus Shale. That land might hold natural gas reserves deep below layers of rock, but it is also home to incredible farms, breweries and wineries that could be seriously impacted in various ways by fracking, says the Forum’s director, Hilary Baum.
“We have to tell Governor Cuomo that fracking poses an unacceptable environmental and public health risk to New York’s water and air, and to a huge portion of NY’s agricultural heartland and people: to our fruit, vegetable, grain, dairy and livestock farmers, our vintners, our brewers, our artisan food producers, their families and their communities,” she says.
Right now there’s a moratorium on fracking: The state Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a study, released their results and opened up the proposal to public commenting, which ends in just a few days. It’s Wood’s hope that even if he doesn’t get a million letters–the staffer suggested it, most likely, because he or she assumed it couldn’t be done–getting thousands to do so might do the trick to move the Governor to ban the process, even if comments on the DEC proposal don’t.
Wood estimates around ten thousand letters have been sent using his site, but he says he’s not worried about the number.”The ‘million letters’ is more of a metaphor for getting lots of people involved in the issue,” he says, “and in that sense I think it’s been a great success, and we’ve had a great impact.”
He also plans to keep amillionfrackingletters.com open after the DEC commenting period is over. “The deadline for letters to the Governor,” he says, “is as long as it takes to get him to prohibit fracking in New York!”