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June 22. On June 19, nearly 140 individuals and representatives from 60 grassroots, regional, and national organizations in four states gathered in Binghamton to share information on legal, scientific, economic, policy, health, and family issues related to hydraulic fracturing for methane gas, or “fracking.”

Participants in the Coalition to Protect New York are unified by knowledge of the extensive evidence that gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing with toxic chemicals harm water supplies, property values, community infrastructure, the environment, and human health.

At the gathering, people from neighboring states who are living with dire consequences of this process gave testimony, urging New Yorkers to halt fracking and avoid problems that have arisen nationwide. The practice hasn't yet been permitted in New York, and two different bills are currently before the state legislature that would impose a moratorium while certain stipulations are met.

“Many organizations statewide have developed expertise and made great strides; by working together, we can achieve even more in educating the public, assisting landowners, and fostering sound public policies,” said Jack Ossont of Yates County, an event organizer. “We need to stop the rush to drill, which would endanger communities across New York.” He lauded the many volunteers who labored to convene the statewide summit.

Workshops were led by experts from around New York and as far as West Virginia. Keynote speakers were Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University; Wes Gillingham, Program Director at Catskill Mountainkeeper; and Julia Walsh, founder of FrackAction.org.

Weston Wilson, a retired whistleblowing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency engineer, paid a surprise visit. In 2004, an EPA study declared that hydraulic fracturing poses no threat to drinking water a conclusion Mr. Weston and others contend is scientifically unsound and resulted from Bush administration pressure to omit critical data. The study greatly contributed to exemption of the gas industry from Safe Drinking Water Act requirements to disclose the toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-22nd District) was another surprise visitor; he encouraged strong oversight of the gas industry and protections for communities, including through passage of the FRAC Act. The bill, which Mr. Hinchey introduced, would require disclosure of the many toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and give the EPA authority to regulate the process.

“We all came to Binghamton with the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in mind, and the commitment to preventing such tragic events from ever happening in New York,” said Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “Today's gathering signifies a new phase of collaboration and effectiveness in ensuring that the gas industry doesn't continue to degrade quality of life across the Marcellus Shale region.”

Maura Stephens of Tioga County, another event organizer, said, “We don't blame people who have signed leases. Gas companies don't reveal the potential frightening consequences. But now we know, and we owe it to everyone to share this information. We want to keep our state beautiful, safe, toxin-free, and livable. Many of us feel we are fighting for our very lives.”

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