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As New York debates hydrofracking, NYPIRG raises awareness

Photo by Brandon Jordan
Photo by Brandon Jordan

The New York Public Interest Research Group discussed problems surrounding hydrofracking in the United States with Queens College students on Dec. 9.

Entitled “What the Frack?” the event aimed to raise awareness amongst QC students and voters as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to make a decision on the approval of hydrofracking in New York.

Hydrofracking is the process where sand, water and chemicals are mixed to apply pressure on shale rocks, yielding natural gas — a fossil fuel.

“Hydrofracking is the issue that is revitalizing the environmental movement to a place it hasn’t been since the 1970s,” project coordinator with NYPIRG who deals with environmental campaigns, Gabe Recchio said.

A recent study by researchers from Oregon State, George Mason and Yale University found 58 percent of Americans had never heard of hydrofracking. Those who had heard of it were split on supporting it with 22 percent in favor and 20 percent opposed.

“That’s why we’re putting [on] the event. It’s a big part of what NYPIRG does. If people took care of these issues on their own, we wouldn’t have to educate about it. That’s where we come in, creating a more educated public and a more responsible citizenry,” he said.

The event drew students and civilians, answering questions individuals had and what the solutions were to counter the growth of fracking.

Recchio asked the audience what “the biggest hurdle” was for humanity toward a sustainable future. Audience members responded with answers such as the economy, money, climate change, oil and natural gas companies, carbon dioxide emissions and lack of knowledge on issues as a few answers.

After showing a critical video of fracking called “The Sky is Pink,” by filmmaker and journalist Josh Fox, Edie Kantrowitz of United for Action elaborated on the significance of the meeting as fracking is discussed in New York with the Cuomo administration having the final say.

“We have to continue pressure on him to show New Yorkers do not want hydrofracking,” she said.

The issue of jobs came up as a concern and Recchio, along with Kantrowitz, remarked most of the jobs would be filled by out-of-state workers.

“The Department of Environmental Conservation said themselves that 77 percent of the jobs that will be filled [in New York] will be by out-of-state workers,” Recchio said. “That other 23 percent? Those are the lowest paying jobs with the most risk involved, like removing toxic materials.”

The call for change, as described by the speakers, could be led by students with signing petitions, calling Gov. Cuomo and raising awareness through platforms like social media.

“California is moving for [fracking], Illinois is moving for it, New York has to set the example,” Kantrowitz said.

Brandon Jordan

Brandon is a senior majoring in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Business And Liberal Arts. He covers labor and activism at CUNY. He also likes to cook, bake, run and make puns, sometimes not in that order. You can follow him on Twitter @BrandonJ_R and email him at brandon[at]theknightnews.com.

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