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Stupendously Great Day in Albany


I write to express my deep appreciation to everyone who attended yesterday's incredible rally in Albany and marched to the Second Floor of the Capitol to send a loud message to Governor Cuomo to expand the scope of the Marcellus Shale SGEIS.

Even more importantly, I wish to thank everyone who worked so hard to make the event a memorable success on extremely short notice.

Let me start by saying that Elaine and Ben Perkus of New Yorkers Against Drilling (NYRAD) and Brendan Woodruff, New York Public Interest Group's Marcellus Shale Campaign Coordinator, deserve our special praise. Elaine and Ben organized a bus full of activists from Binghamton and Ithaca. They have helped so much since I met them in July. Brendan coordinated NYPIRG's statewide efforts and distributed hundreds of posters and flyers at Albany University, RPI, College of St. Rose (EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck's alma mater) and Hudson Valley Community College. He personally beat the bushes and single-handedly generated a large portion of the Rally participants from the Capital District as well as many activists from his home-base of Binghamton. Bravo.

Against that background, I am thrilled to report that the Rally attendees enjoyed a stupendously great day, one of the very best in my 34 years of working in the New York State Capitol. More than 125 activists gathered from all over New York. We heard many moving speakers, including, but not limited to: Sandra Steingraber, Bob Boyle, Wes Gillingham, Legislative Representatives Barbara Lifton, Donna Lupardo, Liz Krueger, Brian Kavanagh, Danny O'Donnell, Michelle Schimel, Deborah Glick, Aileen Gunther and Tom Abinati as well as Catherine Hughes and Gene Stilp, an emissary from Pennsylvania's beleaguered gas fields, among notable others.

After the Rally, the crowd snaked from the "Well" in the Legislative Office Building all the way to the Capitol next to the Hall of Governors where Governor Cuomo's office is located. As we ascended the staircase, our chant of "NO FRACKING WAY" began to reverberate off the stone walls. By prior agreement with highly accommodating New York State Troopers, the crowd gathered in the beautiful and historic War Room. The high-volume chant went on and on and on for nearly an hour, maybe longer. The floor in the War Room was shaking. People, including at least one minister, were dancing and banging on anything that could make noise. It was totally unbelievable. Albany was buzzing today at the performance of the "leather lung choir!!!" Rock on.

Check out a video posted by the Albany Times Union. It will knock you on your butt:

Similar video was posted by Gannett Papers in the heart of the region where Marcellus Shale horizontal hydrofracturing is proposed.

See additional press coverage below.

I hope to identify the stalwarts, notably one young woman, who kept the chant going so long. After I learn their names, I will do my best to get them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (after I kill Marcellus Shale horizontal hydrofracturing in New York). Strong woman with a sense of political and performance purpose change the world, eh? You go girls. I humbly bow in homage.

The surprise shocker I promised was that a small group of activists was granted an audience with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. Such a meeting normally takes months to arrange. Elaine Perkus's request was granted with one phone call and within 24 hours. IS THAT RESPECT OR WHAT?

Thanks to those who attended this important meeting on extremely short notice: Cathleen Breen, NYPIRG's New York City Watershed Protection Coordinator, Dr. Larysa Dyrszka, who organized a coalition letter signed by hundreds of health care professionals calling for New York's Department of Health to be granted co-lead agency status for the SGEIS per the Environmental Protection Agency's recommendation, Catherine Hughes Manhattan Community Board One, Pam Mackesey esteemed Tompkins County Legislator, Wes Gillingham Catskill Mountainkeeper and Ben Perkus NYRAD.

While voicing support for DEC environmental and public health protection mission, I presented Commissioner Martens with numerous documents involving new data recently brought to light by Ian Urbina's series of articles in The New York Times as well as additional new information obtained by Toxics Targeting that was not available when the SGEIS proceeding began. I pointed out DEC's many pollution control shortcomings and underscored the need to avoid additional contamination hazards in NYS.

Then the tag-teaming began. There was a rigorous back and forth by all involved regarding the central question of the meeting. Activists asked repeatedly for a 30-day public comment period to advise DEC how to revised the Draft SGEIS as required by Executive Order No. 41. We were extremely focused and professional. We did not get outflanked or sidetracked. I thought we deflected sidebar matters quite shrewdly.

Commissioner Martens acknowledged that we had presented new data that had not been incorporated into the woefully deficient originally draft SGEIS or the Executive Order proceeding. He was entirely gracious and said he was still in the process of being briefed about the many aspects of revising the Draft SGEIS per Executive Order No. 41. He said no decision would be made in our meeting about allowing public comment regarding how DEC should go about revising the Draft SGEIS. He offered to meet again with the group.

The Commissioner had squeezed us in before an emergency dentist appointment. On our way out, he told me the last time we spoke in person, he did not have a single gray hair on his head. Since more than 25 years had elapsed since that time, I told him we were both fortunate to have hair at all and assured him he still looked good. How time flies, eh?

In conclusion, our mutual efforts yesterday generated intense political pressure in terms of both strength of political numbers, persuasive new data and the presence of many HEAVY LIFTERS in the Legislature who are backing us up. It was an immensely fun and rewarding day. It reminded me why I loved working for so many years in the New York State Capitol. We will see if Governor Cuomo and his DEC Commissioner reply favorably to our detailed requests or continue to drag their feet.

In conclusion, I thank Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and her incredible staff, notably Jordan Lesser, for all their efforts to secure our Rally permit, gain permission to gather in the Well and the other efforts they made without asking to allow our day to be such a huge success. They have been with us since the beginning of this fight. I could not be more appreciative.

Finally, I urge you to continue to reward our friends and to punish the enemies of an environment free of gas drilling harm. Keep hammering the powers that be. Things are trending well, but we have yet to gain an accord. Day by day, we are closer to that goal. Keep slugging.



Call and email Governor Andrew Cuomo, EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Ask them to support:

  1. Expanding the scope of the draft SGEIS to include additional concerns, notably how to manage gas drilling wastewater;
  2. Establishing Citizens and Technical Advisory Committees to help DEC revise the draft SGEIS;
  3. Providing at least 30 days public comment to identify additional issues to be included in the draft SGEIS scope;
  4. Requiring individual EIS reviews for horizontal hydrofracturing permits, "GA effluent limitations" for hydrofracturing, deep well injection and wastewater treatment as well as updating DEC's 1992 GEIS.

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You can read Ian Urbina's three front-page stories in The New York Times and check out the accompanying graphics/document applications at:

I posted a compilation of key horizontal hydrofracturing documents at:

You can hear me discussing those documents on Democracy Now at:

You can hear a podcast about the documents at: