An eclectic mix of organizations are coordinating and working together on hydraulic fracturing (fracing), last week several groups announced the formation of a coalition -- "New Yorkers Against Fracking" — to organize their efforts in the Empire State. The coalition is led by several anti-fracing groups historically active in New York: Food & Water Watch; Water Defense; Catskill Mountainkeeper; and United for Action (David Braun). The coalition has received initial funding from Sandra Steingraber, the biologist and environmental writer who recently won the Heinz Award for her work on how chemical contaminants in air, water and food endanger human health. Steingraber is donating her $100,000 prize to the group.
The coaltion's stated goal is to achieve an outright ban on fracing, suggesting that it will not seek to work with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to bolster the fracing rules that the agency expects to finalize this year. This is an uphill battle in New York, where all indications are that Governor Cuomo and NYSDEC intend to allow fracing, albeit subject to the nation's strictest regulations. Not surprisingly, the more mainstream "national" NGOs (e.g., Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council) -- which largely have resisted pursuing unlikely bans in favor of the more realistic goal of achieving stricter regulation over hydraulic fracturing -- do not appear to be participating in the coalition. Because these national NGOs are working to influence the rules that fracing stakeholders will have to play by for years to come, their efforts arguably are the ones that fracing stakeholders should be keeping a closer eye on for now.