Times Union’s Capitol Confidential
As the Department of Environmental Conservation continues to absorb more than 60,000 comments submitted for the latest iteration of the draft environmental impact statement on the natural gas drilling technique known as hydrofracking, activists and advocates on both sides of the debate try to stay in view of the public and elected officials.
Wednesday began with the New York Public Interest Research Group’s unveiling of the winning images in its “Faces Against Fracking” photo contest. Joined by Assembly members Mark Johns, Barbara Lifton and Steve Englebright, who joined NYPIRG in calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pull the revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. You can see the winners and finalists here.
A few hours later, New Yorkers Against Fracking held a press conference outside the Senate with a stack of several boxes containing some 200,000 signatures from those who want to see a wholesale ban on fracking. In attendance were state advocates as well as Albany figures such as Common Council members Dominick Calsolero and Leah Golby, pictured at right with Karen Scharff of Citizen Action. They dropped the boxes off on the second floor — where they will no doubt be stored right next to the 180 water-powered clocks dropped off by fracking opponents last fall.
The other side kept a lower profile. Tom Kotary of Barrett Paving Materials was among more than 50 people brought in by the Independent Oil & Gas Association to talk to lawmakers and legislative staff about the potential economic benefits of fracking. He met with Sen. Tom Libous, who doesn’t need to be lobbied too hard to support the technique.
“We’re interested in more infrastructure spending,” said Kotary, whose Central New York company has secured drilling-related work in Pennsylvania that keeps 10-15 people employed.
“IOGA went directly to the members of the Legislature to make their case rather than pursuing a publicity stunt or some other kind of media interaction, because they know that members of the Legislature need to be engaged in this debate,” said Paul Larrabee of Corning Place Communications, which has been working with IOGA. (Larrabee interacted with me because I called him, by the way.)
He said 77 meetings of this type had been conducted, the lion’s share with lawmakers or their staff — in all four conferences.
Here’s Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, at the NYers Against Fracking presser, explaining why he no longer trusts the DEC to act independently: