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Please allow me to wish all New Yorkers the Happiest of Frack-Free Holidays/Thanks so much for your help

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It is still hard to believe that the Cuomo administration declared on December 17th that it reportedly plans to conclude the more than six -year-long Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact (SGEIS) proceeding early in January 2015 and issue a legally binding Findings Statement "prohibiting" high volume hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale in New York.

See my breaking news alert about this momentous announcement:

See below our great press coverage as well as a video of the announcement.

This precedent-setting decision is based on the Department of Health "review" released the same day. Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker wrote:

"As with most complex human activities in modern societies, absolute scientific certainty regarding the relative contributions of positive and negative impacts of HVHF on public health is unlikely to ever be attained. In this instance, however, the overall weight of the evidence from the cumulative body of information contained in this Public Health Review demonstrates that there are significant uncertainties about the kinds of adverse health outcomes that may be associated with HVHF, the likelihood of the occurrence of adverse health outcomes, and the effectiveness of some of the mitigation measures in reducing or preventing environmental impacts which could adversely affect public health. Until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from HVHF to all New Yorkers and whether the risks can be adequately managed, DOH recommends that HVHF should not proceed in NYS (bold indicates emphasis added)."


Once the Final SGEIS is issued, a ten-day public comment period would ensue and it could be adopted without further revision. We do not know what the Final SGEIS or the Findings Statement might exactly entail, so we will have to "trust but verify" in the days to come.

Nevertheless, we should be exceedingly grateful that all our hard work has produced this amazingly fortunate outcome. For more than five long years, our hard-hitting campaign relentlessly focused public concerns on the inadequacies of both the SGEIS and the DOH "review" proceedings. The shortcomings we meticulously documented have now been confirmed by the acting Health Commissioner's declaration. Thank you, Dr. Zucker.

I write to thank everyone who helped achieve this victory during the long, hard years of our campaign. I commend your stalwart efforts in winning arguably the most important New York environmental victory in a generation.

As you will see below, our work totally reversed New York State's original favorable policy position on shale fracking. I would like to offer a few observations about how we achieved that turn-around and how we might build on our accomplishments. I look forward to seeing all Fractivists at the Governor's upcoming State of the State address in Albany on January 7th.

Thanks for all your generous comments. I appreciate your goodwill more than you will ever know. It has been a privilege and an honor to have worked with all of you. Winning is better than losing, eh?

In the Beginning

It is almost impossible to appreciate how bleak our prospects were when this fledgling campaign began or how far we have all come.

In July 2008, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation imposed a de facto moratorium on Marcellus Shale fracking until public health and environmental safeguards were adopted pursuant to an SGEIS proceeding.

At that time, few New Yorkers even knew what hydraulic fracking was. Those who did mostly wanted "tight shale" gas extraction to begin as soon as possible due to the promise of enormous financial benefits. Organized opposition to shale fracking was limited to say the least.

When DEC proposed a Draft SGEIS on 9/30/2009, the first fracking permits were expected to be issued by March 2010.

As you can see from what I wrote on May 11, 2009, my strategy from day one was to safeguard New Yorkers from shale fracking harm by preventing adoption of an inadequate Final SGEIS. If that could be achieved, I believed our state's shale fracking moratorium would simply continue and widespread fracking hazards could be prevented.


As a critical first step, I aimed to document gas and oil extraction hazards using DEC's own data. My goal was to challenge DEC's assertion that:

"As a result of New York's rigorous regulatory process, the types of problems reported to have occurred in states without such strong environmental laws and rigorous regulations haven't happened here. No known instances of groundwater contamination have occurred from previous horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing projects in New York State."

Our first round of media coverage was stupendous, notably due to the reporting by Tom Wilber of the Press and Sun Bulletin. Check out his terrific lead:

That launched a long, grueling fight as we began to build organized support for withdrawing the Draft SGEIS.

Powered by intense media coverage through the end of 2009 and all during 2010, our efforts quickly rose to the level of dignity associated with a highly organized political campaign. On December 13, 2010 Governor Paterson signed Executive Order No. 41 which required the Draft SGEIS to be "revised." His action miraculously achieved what we fought for.

A Revised Draft SGEIS was released on September 7, 2011, but it also received scathing criticism, notably by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Three years later, it is still in the deep freeze.

When Governor Cuomo pledged in the autumn of 2012 not to adopt a Final Draft SGEIS before completing a Department of Health "review," we generated intense opposition for that proceeding conducted in secret without any public participation. In the last two years, intensifying pressure on that DOH "review" helped bring us to where we are today.


We do not know exactly why Governor Cuomo did what he did. We may never know. Nevertheless, we are pleased with the outcome.

What matters most is that tens of thousands of Fractivists won an unlikely victory unparalleled in the annals of American environmentalism or the history of mineral extraction in our nation. In doing so, they returned environmental activism to the grassroots community battles where it began.

As they say, "that is not chopped liver."

In closing, I can assure you that our campaign was instrumental in safeguarding all New York from shale fracking. As a result, we achieved our original goal of making sure that New York did not suffer the gas extraction toxic hazards reported in other states.

Everything we accomplished now constitutes a highly effective model of data research, policy advocacy, media outreach, grassroots organizing and internet mapping that can be replicated wherever shale fracking is underway or proposed.

In conclusion, thank you for all of your assistance. I appreciate your sacrifices and your financial support. New York would have been fracked long ago without you. With the Cuomo administration's landmark decision, we are in a good position to eliminate all natural gas and oil extraction hazards after nearly 200 years of environmental devastation in our home state.

Much more to follow. We have just begun to fight.

In the meantime, I invite you to revel in our latest round of impressive news coverage summarized below.

Happy Frack-Free Holidays.

Always gratefully,

Walter Hang

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Marcellus Shale Fracking Prohibition Coverage

Anti-Fracking Activists Celebrate Victory

Ithaca’s fracking foes declare jubilant victory after "sacrificing day and night for years"

Celebrating the fracking ban

Fracking opponents celebrate ban in Binghamton

Fractivists rally after fracking ban

With Unresolved Health Risks and Few Signs of an Economic Boon, Cuomo to Ban Gas Fracking

A Chat on New York’s Shale Gas Ban with Anti-Fracking Superhero Mark Ruffalo

Elmira-area reaction to casino, fracking decisions

Mixed Emotions After Fracking Decision

12/17/14 Cuomo Cabinet Meeting: