Waste Not, Want Not was created recently when Mary Finneran, of CPNY and FrackBustersNY, and Steuben County residents concerned about health and welfare became alarmed about the radioactive fracking waste from Pennsyvlania being accepted into the Hakes Landfill.
Hakes Landfill has accepted about 150,000 tons of this waste since 2010, and the same problem is occurring in landfills around the state, including Hyland in Angelica and Chemung County Landfill in Lowman. “It’s pulverized rock laced with heavy metals and other stuff including radioactive materials,” explained Doug Couchon.
What motivated residents equally was the appalling indifference of Steuben County and Chemung County legislators to the eloquent pleas by those who elected them to stop accepting these highly toxic materials.
“When people try to protect their communities from harm, they are all too often held in contempt by their elected representatives,” Finneran points out. “As just one local example, there was a large vocal public presence over many months at Chemung County legislature meetings. Residents presented carefully researched evidence showing the dangers of drill cuttings and other toxins. But in the end, the legislators totally ignored public safety and wishes, and voted in favor of receiving landfill fees.”
In an even more blatant dismissal of communities’ rights to protect themselves from corporate harm, the legislature of Texas passed, and the governor signed, a law that supercedes local laws that kept dangerous corporate activities out. Now Texas municipalities cannot enforce their own laws against gas drilling and other threats, which opens the way for all sorts of industries to plunk themselves down in the middle of towns and do whatever they like, with no repercussions. The same sort of thing is happening in Oklahoma, where fracking has increased the incidence of earthquakes almost exponentially. And such quashing of local municipalities to set their own protective laws is likely to spread.
Growing numbers of people recognize that billionaires are creating state and federal laws, using their lobbyists and lawyers, protecting their own interests while finding ways to make it illegal for communities to protect themselves. Waste Not, Want Not members believe that if a large number of people — the 99 percent — unite, their power can trump the large amounts of money spent by the corporate-tied 1 percent to buy elections and make decisions on matters that affect everyone’s life.
Virginia Rasmussen, speaking at the group’s founding meeting, explained how corporate power interferes with citizens who try to protect themselves from such dangers, deliberately eroding our democracy and the will of the people.
“We like to believe the system is merely broken and that we can ‘fix’ it,” she said. “But the system has been rigged from the start against the real self-governing powers of the people. Our efforts to keep it from getting out of hand have now all been made utterly ineffective.”
Finneran cites as an example Schuyler County, where many people opposed to the Crestwood gas storage project along Seneca Lake have resorted to locking themselves down to protect their lives, livelihoods, and environment, many of them being arrested and prosecuted.
As Rasmussen says, “It’s time for a redesign!”
Thus Waste Not, Want Not will host a public forum on democracy and citizens’ rights on Saturday, June 20, 10:00 a.m.-noon, at the First Congregational United Church of Church, 171 W. Pulteney St., Corning.
The speakers will touch on a variety of topics such as New York Public Law #1; the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, which gave corporations “personhood” and took away real persons’ sovereign rights; campaign finance reform; the restoration of democracy; the need for constitutional change; the dangers of radioactive frack waste in our landfills; and the potential impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty.