ALBANY — A coalition of groups opposed to the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing have launched the “Not One Well” campaign.
The effort is designed to head off the possibility Gov. Andrew Cuomo might approve a limited pilot program to allow fracked wells in Southern Tier communities with the approval of local elected officials.
The option was first floated in the summer of 2012, to great disapproval from anti-fracking forces, who described such regions of potential drilling as “sacrifice zones.”
“Our rallying cry then is the same as it is now: not one well,” said Julia Walsh of Frack Action at a Capitol news conference on Wednesday.
Advocates on both sides of the issue are awaiting the release of the long-gestating health impact review by the state Department of Health, which was charged in February 2013 with assessing the Department of Environmental Conservation’s regulatory blueprint for fracking. The review was begun by former Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, who left the administration last spring, and is being completed under Acting Commissioner Howard Zucker.
Cuomo said the review will be completed by the end of December. It is expected to be released to the public at the same time the governor gets it.
The “Not One Well” campaign will involve social media as well as billboards — one has already gone up at the confluence of I-90 and I-787 — as well as what Walsh called “the largest State of the State anti-fracking rally ever” before Cuomo’s annual speech on Jan. 7.
Advocates from coalition partners including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Food & Water Watch, Environmental Advocates, Riverkeeper and more renewed their call for Cuomo to implement a formal three- to five-year moratorium on fracking to allow for even more scientific study of its environmental and health impacts.
Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the NRDC, said she was confident Cuomo would be on firm legal ground to impose such a moratorium as an executive order — which would keep the issue away from a potentially tangled legislative process.
“We wait — but we will not wait silently,” said William Cooke of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
Advocates acknowledged that they were only speculating about what Cuomo might do after the release of the DOH report, and that no hard information on a possible pilot program had come to light.