More than 1,000 march in Albany against fracking
Protestors’ signs target Cuomo
8:09 PM, Aug. 27, 2012
Written by Jon Campbell
ALBANY — When more than 1,000 people marched in the streets of downtown Albany to protest hydraulic fracturing on Monday, they left little doubt who they were targeting.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s name and face were featured on dozens of neon signs wielded by protesters, each of them urging him to ban the much-debated technique used during the natural-gas extraction process. His picture was on the face of a larger-than-life cardboard puppet that adorned one person’s shoulders, with an angel to one side of his head and a devil to the other.
As the marchers made their way west to the Capitol, there was a 15-foot-high mural of Cuomo’s likeness parked outside — featuring dollar signs in his eyes, vampire teeth in his mouth and two drilling rigs protruding from his temples.
The message underneath the massive black-and-white drawing echoed the underlying theme of the mile-long march: “Andy: Just Say No.”
“Fracking should be a crime,” the protesters shouted in unison.
They were just a few feet from the entrance to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s headquarters, where they had set up a faux drilling rig.There, they filled an entire city block while stopping to watch a skit surrounding the Cuomo puppet and the rig, which was collapsed and changed into two mock windmills.
“We have the power to take this drill down and put up wind turbines,” they shouted.
Cuomo’s DEC is expected this year to issue a final determination on whether high-volume hydrofracking — a technique that involves a mix of water, sand and chemicals injected into gas-rich shale formations — can be done safely in New York.
That decision will mark the end of an extensive regulatory and environmental review of the controversial technique. That review has gone on for more than four years and has pitted environmentalists against the industry, which says gas drilling could provide an economic boost to the state’s struggling Southern Tier.
The march was organized by several groups that are calling for a statewide hydrofracking ban, including a coalition known as New Yorkers Against Fracking. Protesters were escorted by three mounted police officers through some of downtown’s busiest streets, starting at a riverside amphitheater and making stops at the Capitol and the DEC building.
The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, an industry trade group, was not amused.
“Gimmicks, stunts and street theater trivialize the debate and reflect the views of an outspoken and uninformed few,” Brad Gill, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “New Yorkers want data, science and reason to strike a balance between the environment and future energy production.”
The protest drew people from all over the state, including several high-profile activists and environmentalists. Buses came from Binghamton, Ithaca, Oneonta and New York City.
Bill McKibben, a well-known environmentalist and head of 350.org, addressed the crowd, as did “Gasland” filmmaker Josh Fox.
“I was really happy to see this many people show up, truthfully,” said Kurtis Bayer, 28, who traveled to the rally from Corning. “Without clean water, then we won’t have a future for our kids.”
Attendance estimates by police and organizers ranged anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 people during the height of the march. Police reported no incidents with any of the protesters taking part in the march, which drew the attention of curious, phone-wielding onlookers as it made its way toward the Capitol.
Bob Thompson, owner of Hemlock Hills Alpaca Farm in Livingston County, said he doesn’t believe hydrofracking should be allowed in New York — on a limited basis or otherwise.
“That’s a foot in the door,” said Thompson, who belongs to an anti-fracking group called Frack Free Genesee. “If it comes in one place, it’s going to come in all.”
Cuomo, meanwhile, has been consistent in saying there is no timetable on when the DEC will issue its final hydrofracking report. Gas-drilling protesters have turned up the heat on Cuomo recently, trailing him during his visit to The New York State Fair in suburban Syracuse and picketing outside of a policy conference he hosted in Manhattan last week.
Speaking to reporters at the fair on Thursday, Cuomo said protesters will “make their own decision on how they handle themselves.”
“That’s one of the joys of the job, I guess — being joined by protesters on one issue or the other,” Cuomo said.
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