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Fracking: Bad For Farmers, Bad For Everybody

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a dangerous method of drilling for natural gas that threatens our air, land and water. The process produces radioactive wastewater, climate-changing methane emissions, air pollution and groundwater contamination. The soil contamination and pollution, combined with expansive land development and massive water consumption, threaten the health, safety and viability of New York’s thriving food and beverage industry.

New York has the second-largest number of farmers markets in the country and is the third-largest dairy producer. Steuben County, which Governor Cuomo is considering opening up to drillers, has one of the highest numbers of dairies in the state. Fracking in New York threatens the survival of farmers markets, organic food sellers and community-supported agriculture in our state.

Fracking’s risks extend well beyond drilling sites, as well. Traffic accidents, spills, well blowouts and leaks can all put farms and agricultural land in harm’s way. Thousands of trucks are used to ship hazardous wastewater and toxic materials, and traffic accidents have caused fracking wastewater to spill into nearby freshwater bodies. In 2011, a well blowout in Bradford County, PA, contaminated adjacent streams and farmland with thousands of gallons of drilling fluids.

This kind of exposure to fracking fluids can be lethal to livestock. In Tioga County, PA, in 2010, a fracking wastewater storage pond leaked and spilled into a pasture where 28 cattle were grazing. Eight of the 11 calves born the following spring were stillborn or didn’t survive for long.

Because much of the land targeted for fracking is active farmland, and the threats to food safety are so daunting, it would be foolish to allow fracking in New York. At a rally and march on June 17th called “New York Crossroads: Rally to Stop Fracking and Demand Renewable Energy,” thousands of New York farmers, business owners, and food-eating residents will converge on the Capital Lawn in Albany to demand that Governor Cuomo ban shale gas drillers from our state and instead revitalize our economy in sustainable, safe ways that don’t threaten our food and our farmers.

- by Rita Yelda, Buffalo

Rita Yelda is an organizer with Food & Water Watch.

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