Extend Moratorium on Fracking
by New Times Staff - Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
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Extend Moratorium on Fracking

by Emily Bishop

Thank you for publishing the ProPublica article by Naveena Sadasivam on fracking and health studies. It has been clear to the majority of New Yorkers that fracking is harmful to the environment and human health and that there is a lack of evidence that it can be done safely.

The impact of fracking on human health is the reason why, on Thursday, May 29th, the coalition of Concerned Health Professionals of New York (CHPNY) delivered a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and acting Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to urge them to enact at least a three-year moratorium on fracking so that current studies can be completed to determine full scope of fracking on human health.

The letter provides an extensive list of the latest studies and science on fracking, stating: “The totality of the science — which now encompasses hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and hundreds of additional reports and case examples — shows that permitting fracking in New York would pose significant threats to the air, water, health and safety of New Yorkers.”

And, as it is stated in Sadasivam’s article, we really should be looking at the entire cycle of fracking, from the extraction of water that will be used in the fracking operations to the increased methane emissions that will come from its use in homes. There is so much in between that hasn’t been studied yet, which is one reason why CHPNY is calling for a moratorium.

Dr. Sheila Bushkin-Bedient, of CHPNY and a member of the Institute for Health and the Environment at SUNY Albany, said, “Scientific evidence is mounting quickly, indicating that unconventional shale gas operations or ‘fracking’ are already leading to observable health hazards. Prevention demands, at the very least, a moratorium on fracking for three to five years so that we can become better informed, and devote more time to developing healthier, sustainable energy options.”

The letter from CHPNY identifies the key trends and recent scientific studies that link fracking to human health, including: water contamination due to failed well casings, disposal of fracking wastewater that contains radioactive contaminants and air quality impacts, among others.

A copy of the letter is at: tinyurl.com/lllp7sn

Emily Bishop is Central New York regional organizer for New Yorkers Against Fracking.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS SCARY, A CARBON TAX IS NOT

By Diane Williamson

The National Climate Assessment was released recently. It details the observed and predicted effects of climate change in the United States. Scary stuff.

The panel predicted that warming could exceed 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. That might seem like a long way off, but I have two young kids who will not even be out of high school until 2030. My grandkids will definitely feel the effects of global warming. If we are already experiencing “extended periods of unusual heat,” just imagine them 10 degrees hotter.

Warmer weather means more droughts, like the current historic droughts in California and Texas. Droughts spell trouble not just for those who like to wash their cars and water their lawns. These droughts will raise food prices and put people out of work.

While I occasionally joke about in the future being able to grow real oranges in the orange grove at Syracuse University, real fruit farmers are not laughing. Do you remember the exceptionally warm, early spring in 2012, which caused apple trees to bloom too early and then die in a series of hard freezes, wiping out 60 percent of the apple harvest that year? There are similar problems to come, for all types of agriculture.

In addition, here in Syracuse we can expect more flooding, like the kind we had last summer, due to a rising frequency of torrential rains.

Understanding climate change is difficult because it involves predicting the future, and that can be done with only limited certainty. Nevertheless, all the climate simulations (which accurately model the present) predict negative consequences. The uncertainty could only be for the worse.

Scientists are as sure that fossil fuel use causes global warming as they are that smoking cigarettes causes cancer. Don’t take my word for it: ask NASA. Its website is one of the best for measuring and explaining climate change.

We need to quit smoking. Well, smoking coal, oil, and natural gas, that is. Fortunately, there exists a relatively painless, free-market solution to this problem: Make it more expensive to put CO2 in the atmosphere.

Raising the price of cigarettes has done more to reduce the rate of cigarette smoking in the U.S., which is at a historic low, than all of the educational and health campaigns combined. Therefore, just like a tax on cigarettes, the answer is a carbon tax on the companies that sell fossil fuels. When it is more expensive to pollute, all of our economic attention we be directed at developing renewable energy.

Even if 97 percent of the climate scientists are wrong and climate change is a big conspiracy, a carbon tax is still a good idea. In creating a disincentive for fossil fuel energy (coal, oil and natural gas) and an incentive for the development of renewable resources, the fee promotes U.S. energy independence.

Proposed legislation (supported by the Syracuse Citizens Climate Lobby) turns the fee into a rebate for every American. The total collected from fossil fuel companies will be divided by the number of taxpayers; easy as pie, the check’s in the mail. In other words, this proposal is revenue-neutral, so even Republicans who vowed never to raise taxes can support it.

Most importantly, the proposed legislation imposes a tariff on imports from countries without a similar carbon fee, to not disadvantage American production. Cynics say that China will never get on board, but this tariff effectively targets China. China already has a small carbon tax, which it would be prompted to increase.

A carbon fee is in the interests of ordinary Americans — through job creation in renewable energy, energy independence, and money in their pockets through rebate checks. Even if you are not scared about climate change, a carbon tax is a good idea.

Diane Williamson lives in Syracuse.

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