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Most NYS Senate Candidates United on Key Issue


Incumbent Grisanti left alone on the fence when it comes to fracking

The issue of high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking)—the highly controversial method of extracting natural gas from underground shale formations—has become the number one issue in the race for the 60th New York State Senate District, currently held by Republican Mark Grisanti. There is a moratorium on permitting the practice in New York, pending the conclusions of a report from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)—though insiders expect an announcement soon. There is widespread speculation that lawmakers will throw the industry a bone by allowing fracking in a handful of poorer counties in the southern tier. A ban is already in place for areas that comprise the New York City watershed.

Grisanti receives $25,000 a year in addition to his $79,500 New York State salary to sit as chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, although critics say he has not done enough to engage the public. He introduced a series of bills related to fracking that critics argue don’t go far enough to ensure the environmental safety of the process that has caused problems in states where it is allowed. He has steadfastly maintained that he won’t make a final decision on the issue until the DEC report is final. His challengers, it is now clear, are not waiting that long.

When former state senator and Buffalo city councilman Al Coppola announced his candidacy, he made his case against fracking in New York very clear. “The fact is we know they use chemicals to go down to the Marcellus shale and bring up the gas,” he says. “It’s a known fact from looking at other states that there is no pure way of fracking. The fact of the matter is, two years ago no one knew what “frack” meant. Now everyone knows how harmful it is to our water. The industry says there are still improvements to be made. Well, why are we taking that chance with our water?”

Coppola stresses that there are other, clean alternatives, and refers to feed-in tariffs that can be implemented to spur wind energy development, for example. “That’s being done right now by our neighbors across the bridge. Ontario’s Green Energy Act has brought 20,000 jobs to the area. $20 billion in investment,” he says.

Now challenger Chuck Swanick is coming out publicly against fracking, saying the science is not there to show it can be done safely.

“The science indicates that hydraulic fracturing is not yet a safe technology,” reads an August 14 Swanick press release. “Perhaps someday, with advancements in the method and further scientific studies on the environmental impacts, fracking will be a safe source of natural gas that will create jobs and provide an economic boost to our region, but that day is not today.”

He refers to a report by the National Academy of Science that draws a connection between the pumping of huge volumes of fluids into the earth and subsequent seismic events. He also cites a recent Albany Times Union article that revealed the DEC was heavily lobbied by the natural gas industry, and that the industry was allowed to tweak the regulations to their advantage. Critics charge the resulting gas drilling regulations in New York are the very worst in the nation.

Swanick also claims that a door-to-door survey of constituents in the 60th District is showing that 58% of the respondents are saying “no” to fracking, citing their concern about drinking water contamination.

Coppola says he was happy to see that Swanick changed his tune. “I guess he got more good information on how serious the issue is.”

“According to a July 17 press release from Mike Amodeo, the endorsed Democratic candidate for the 60th senate seat: “I have no intention of parsing my words when it comes to fracking, I’m against it. This questionable technique has no place in the Empire State and I stand firmly with all those brave advocates who continue to remind us of the importance of public health over oil and gas company profits.”

Amodeo also cites well and drinking water concerns. “Too many questions remain unanswered for the people of New York State to simply step aside and allow our countryside to be contaminated by the highest bidder,” he says.

He seems to part with Coppola on the issue of wind energy, however, opposing ‘“marine wind farms” that would likely inhibit majestic lakeside view sheds and harm the local recreational fishing industry,” according to his press release.

The lone holdout in the race when it comes to the issue of fracking is the incumbent, the current Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, Mark Grisanti.

It remains to be seen where Kevin Stocker, who is challenging Grisanti in the Republican primary, stands on the issue.

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