There’s nothing like the looming end of a legislative session to focus people’s attention on important issues—and for elected officials to ignore them. Today in Albany, both happened.
Outside the Capitol, thousands gathered to call on the state to reject natural gas development and embrace clean, renewable energy. Speakers eloquently made the case for why New York—now truly at a crossroads in its decision on fracking—should embark on a path paved with sunshine and wind rather than drill rigs and toxic waste.
A brand new Siena Poll proves such a view is gaining ground, with 44% of New York voters opposed to fracking in the Marcellus Shale, compared to 37% in favor, a wider margin than previous polls. (Outside of the New York City region, the gap is even greater, with 52% opposed and just 38% in favor.)
Former U.S. representative Maurice Hinchey (co-author of the FRAC Act) summed up the main reason: ensuring that “our water, our land, and our air remain clean and safe for generations to come.” Sungevity co-founder Alec Guettel emphasized that “we aren’t just here to say no, but to say yes to an alternative that is already succeeding in the market.” Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson summed up his roadmap for New York: converting to renewable energy would improve public health, lower energy costs for consumers, and save the state billions.
But such vital and logical points—even when expressed at a very high volume—likely fell on deaf ears inside the Capitol. Senate leaders continue to refuse to allow a vote on a bill that would establish a two-year moratorium on new permits for shale gas drilling while public health impacts are studied. The Assembly still hasn’t taken up the job-creating solar bill, while a special oil & gas industry loophole for hazardous waste remains wide open.
New York’s kingpin politics means that many good bills—even those with the clear support of legislators and citizens—die without ever being put to a vote. And so it was truly the rally-goers marching in the streets, not the elected officials talking in their chambers, who had the right to shout today, “This is what democracy looks like!”