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Counting Our Blessings/Forging Ahead to Meet Our Biggest Challenge Yet


I trust that you have been very well since I last communicated. Before I lay out plans for conducting the next phase of our campaign to safeguard New York from shale fracking harm, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving as well as a Happy Anniversary.

We all have so much to be grateful for. It is mind-boggling to contemplate how far this campaign has come. Thank you so much for all your hard work.

In an age when activism often constitutes "forwarding great links" and signing petitions that never change anything, your efforts have really counted. For going on six years, New York has stopped the trillion dollar gas and oil industry from hydraulic fracturing the heartland of our state. That is not chopped liver.

With luck, our streak will continue for a long time to come. I will specify how we can fulfill that goal, but first I want to review how we have survived so far.


Exactly four years ago, New York was on the verge of authorizing Marcellus Shale gas extraction. Due to weak opposition and dreams of a modern day gold rush, it was widely reported that our state's 2008 shale gas moratorium would be rescinded early in 2010.

On November 8, 2009, Toxics Targeting released a detailed compilation of the Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) own data that documented 273 gas and oil extraction-related fires, explosions, polluted drinking water wells and massive uncontrolled drilling wastewater releases.

That research directly contradicted DEC's assertion that its 1992 Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) adequately protected New Yorkers from gas and oil extraction hazards and only needed to be "supplemented" before shale fracking could safely begin.

Tom Wilbur's epic front-page coverage of those findings ran in the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin, the Ithaca Journal and the Elmira Star Gazette: "The state's depiction of a clean, tightly regulated natural gas industry just got a shot of muck in the eye.

As the debate over the merits of Marcellus Shale development reaches a crescendo, an Ithaca researcher has culled a list of 270 files documenting wastewater spills, well contamination, explosions, methane migration and ecological damage related to gas production in the state since 1979."

Thanks, Tom. You deserve immense credit as does your paper. See:

Our improbable grassroots campaign took off with only seven weeks left in the comment period for the Draft Supplemental GEIS. Activists beat the bushes for signatories to an excruciatingly detailed coalition letter which requested that the Draft SGEIS be withdrawn. Our goal was to "send it back to the drawing board." Big enviros said that strategy had a "snowball's chance in hell."

Entire families signed the coalition letter between courses of Thanksgiving dinner. By the end of 2009, we had gained 6,000 signatories and generated huge press. Governor Paterson was slammed by a tsunami of organized opposition to the woefully inadequate Draft SGEIS. As a result, no Final SGEIS was adopted and New York's shale fracking moratorium simply continued.


In 2010, we got on an astounding roll by organizing hundreds of events. We recruited our core group of stalwart fractivists and courageous elected officials, gained more than 10,000 coalition letter signatories and bird-dogged Andrew Cuomo during his gubernatorial campaign. We generated staggering press all over the nation as well as Israel, China, India, Germany and Vietnam.

The tide began to turn. The Southern Tier became the epicenter of the national shale fracking debate when we joined forces with the NYRADians to twice defeat leasing of mineral rights for public property in Broome County. Candidates began lining up to sign our coalition letter in front of TV cameras.

After Governor Paterson vetoed a pathetic fig leaf mini-moratorium bill, everything hit the fan on December 13, 2010 when the Governor miraculous signed Executive Order No. 41 which required the Draft SGEIS to be "revised." That was close enough to a withdrawal for me. Thank you, Peter Iwanowicz. That proceeding still has not been completed.

2011 and 2012

During the next two brutal years, we documented hundreds of additional gas and oil extraction hazards and families victimized by DEC's regulatory failures, expanded our broad grassroots coalition and fought to prevent a Final SGEIS from being adopted. We were hanging by a thread. Fortunately, our work received much more media coverage, including in Norway and Japan.

Throughout this period, we hammered the inadequacies of the Revised Draft SGEIS and gained more than 22,700 signatories to a coalition letter which requested that Governor Cuomo withdraw the proposal due to its shortcomings as well as its failure to fulfill the requirements of Executive Order No. 41. See:

By the end of November 2012, DEC was in danger of missing a shale gas rulemaking deadline because a Department of Health "review" of the "health impact analysis" in the Draft SEGIS had not been completed and no Final SGEIS had been adopted.

Governor Cuomo could have kicked the fracking can down the road. Instead his administration submitted a "notice of continuation" for a 90-day extension to finish the rulemaking proceeding.

That was a big mistake. We organized intense opposition to the DOH "review" due to its total lack of public participation. We ultimately gained more than 10,000 coalition letter signatories calling for the "review" to be halted and for a comprehensive Public Health Impact Study to be required. More than 200 local government officials and Legislators in both Houses joined our fight.

BTW, I recently had the honor of personally thanking Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for his crucial assistance in that matter.


After a brutal battering, Health Commissioner, Nirav R. Shah wrote DEC Commissioner Martens on February 12, 2013 that the DOH "review" had not been completed. As a result, no Final SGEIS could be adopted and DEC's revised rulemaking proceeding collapsed in an embarrassing personal defeat for Andrew Cuomo.

Because Dr. Shah wrote that his "review" would be completed "within weeks," we continued to attack its fatal flaws at every opportunity. We held more press events than you can shake a stick at. Thank you, the most Honorable Matthew T. Ryan, our inestimable friend, who put everything on the line in the public interest. You are one in a gazillion. I bow in homage.

Our criticism culminated in sweeping national coverage, including Time magazine, when President Obama visited Binghamton on August 23, 2013.

To this day, the DOH "review" still has not been finished, though Dr. Shah has traveled all over the country meeting with authorities.

The DOH "review" battle is pivotal because it constitutes a critical second line of shale fracking defense. The "review" must be finished before a Final SGEIS can be adopted. So long as the DOH "review" is not finished, Governor Cuomo cannot permit shale fracking to proceed. We have tied that proceeding into the Gordian Knot for more than a year with no end in sight.


For all these reasons, we have been extraordinarily fortunate, but we are not out of the woods. Every indication is that Governor Cuomo remains committed to permitting shale fracking. Otherwise, he would have punted a long time ago.

Our biggest challenge is already unfolding as the Governor's reelection campaign shifts into high gear. Everything he does between now and November 4, 2014 will be influenced by his goal of gaining an historic reelection plurality that would set the stage for a presidential bid.

Shale gas fracking will be a major factor in the Governor's campaign. I implore you to help in three ways.

1. Bird-Dogging

Above all, you can help fulfill our promise that we will bird-dog the Governor 'wherever he shows his face." Our best hope is that he becomes deathly afraid of having his reelection campaign hijacked by Fractivists. The specter of rabid anti-frackers storming every campaign stop is a critical factor in our favor.

2. Put DOH "review" On-Hold/Require Public Health Impact Study/Resolve SGEIS Shortcomings

Focus on pressuring Governor Cuomo to: a) halt the DOH "review" conducted without any public participation; b) require a comprehensive shale fracking "Public Health Impact Study" to be conducted openly and transparently and c) fully resolve all shale fracking hazards documented in our coalition letters before permitting shale gas extraction.

If the DOH "review" is not halted or put on-hold, it can be finished at any time. A mere ten days later, a Final SGEIS could be adopted. New York's shale fracking moratorium would end.

3. Prevent Green Groups From Shilling

Given the rule of "trust, but confirm," we must make sure that Governor Cuomo cannot permit shale fracking with "green" political cover. Environmental groups in New York supported efforts in CA, IL, CO and other states to adopt so-called "toughest fracking regulations in the nation." In reality, those protections are inadequate and likely will never be enforced.

Various environmental groups recently praised the Governor for his shale gas regulatory approach in a coalition letter. That strategy is highly questionable because it seemingly gives the Governor public support without getting anything in return. That is generally a Cardinal sin in negotiation.

New Cooperative Development Bodes Well

On the bright side, their letter includes a request that the DOH "review" be put on hold and that a comprehensive health impact assessment be required. That major development that took more than a year to achieve. It creates common ground among more groups and should permit greater cooperation.

I want to thank the hundreds of you who wrote Fracking Advisory Panel members and deluged Governor Cuomo to elicit that requested response. I also thank Alex Beauchamp of Food & Water Watch for his assistance in the matter.



In conclusion, your dedicated efforts have been instrumental in protecting New York from shale fracking harm, but please do not get lulled into a false sense of security. Every day is a political eternity. Take nothing for granted.

Shale fracking has transformed America's energy future by vastly increasing natural gas and oil production. Shale fracking is underway in most of the states in the nation. Cheap gas is cannibalizing coal and nuclear energy production at an astonishing pace and is already being exported in huge quantities. The USA will soon become the planet's biggest oil producer.

By implementing the plan outlined herein, New York can avoid that fate by extending our state's moratorium and becoming a harbinger of better things to come for the rest of the nation.

Making that happen will be extremely hard, but you and thousands of other Fractivists have repeatedly beaten long odds by holding at bay the biggest corporate polluters in the world. If we all work together, I know we can succeed.

Hum, babe. Keep slugging. More details to follow soon. See you at State of the State in Albany.

Onward and upward.

Very best regards,

Walter Hang

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