Kathleen Johnson held her 2-year-old daughter Avery in her arms along with a sign reading “No Drill, No Spill.”
Johnson joined about 25 others in a protest Monday at the district office of state Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie.
Lopez is facing criticism from environmental groups for voting “No” on the hydrofracking moratorium bill approved by the Assembly last week.
If approved, the bill would halt permits for natural gas extraction in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations and require a thorough health assessment followed by public hearings.
For Johnson, who is raising three daughters with her husband in Richmondville, the safety of the practice is a key concern.
High volume, horizontal hydrofracturing entails forcing large amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the shale to release natural gas trapped in the rock.
Studies have been performed on the practice. Some say it is safe, others say it is not.
Johnston said with her children’s future at stake, she prefers the state take the safe approach because she believes there’s no convincing evidence the practice won’t endanger ground water.
“It’s not completely safe and nobody’s proved it,” she said.
Allen Cosgrove of Lawyersville carried a sign reading “Don’t Frack our Karst,” referring to the sensitive geology beneath the Schoharie region, riddled with caves carved out of limestone.
Many gas drilling leases secured about five years ago for natural gas exploration on parcels in Schoharie County have since expired. Others are set to expire in May.
Industry experts say drilling in New York, if it happens, would likely begin in the Southern Tier, close to Pennsylvania wells currently producing gas. Despite the unlikelihood of hydrofracturing in Schoharie County under that scenario, Cosgrove said it’s still a possibility, so he is speaking out against it.
Hydrofracking supporters point to the economic development potential the gas represents in addition to the role it could play weaning the United States off of foreign fuel sources.
Cosgrove said dollars shouldn’t take precedence over citizens’ physical well-being.
“I think you can’t put revenue in front of people’s health,” said Cosgrove, who is hoping the Senate and then governor sign onto the moratorium bill.
“It certainly warrants a period of time to look at the science [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo so frequently talks about,” he said.
Richmondville resident Bob Neid, a director at the grass-roots citizens group The Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, said the economic boost of hydrofracturing isn’t playing out as expected in Pennsylvania.
“The benefit hasn’t been there,” he said. “I think, given the potential for harm to the community, there really has to be some significant economic benefit to this.”
Lopez later Monday said he recognizes many people, including his constituents, are passionate about environmental issues such as hydrofracturing.
But he said the bill he voted against last week was an “overreach” that would affect low-volume, vertical drilling that’s already under way in the state.
Lopez said he’s supported moratoria on the process as well as independent analysis. “I continue to support a thoughtful, objective, thorough review of the technology.”