After grassroots struggle, city bans fracking
Published Mar 3, 2011 8:28 PM
After months of demonstrations and repeatedly packing the gallery at City
Council meetings, Frack Action Buffalo, a local grassroots group, and its
supporters celebrated a major victory. The city of Buffalo’s Common
Council became the first major city government in New York State — and
the second in the U.S. — to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. The
Council passed “Buffalo’s Community Protection from Natural Gas
Extraction Ordinance” on Feb. 8 by a 9-0 vote.
The activists succeeded in combating an assault on Buffalo’s media and
legislators by spokespeople from the powerful gas and oil industry, who
targeted this very poor city with propaganda about huge numbers of jobs to be
created by fracking. The Frack Action group’s success was the result of
intense research, informational meetings in many communities and detailed
presentations to lawmakers.
Buffalo follows in the footsteps of Pittsburgh which passed a similar ban last
November. However, the Buffalo law not only prohibits drillers from fracking
for gas in Buffalo. It also bars the disposal of drilling wastewater or other
production wastes within city limits. This is where the Buffalo law is
different from Pittsburgh’s: it takes on the issue of what to do with the
millions of gallons of wastewater generated by the process. This dangerous
byproduct of fracking contains carcinogens, volatile organic compounds and
In Pennsylvania, as reported in January by the Associated Press, the Department
of Environmental Protection authorized the discharge of at least 3.6 million
barrels of fracking wastewater — with minimal to no treatment —
into rivers and streams across the state.
Immediately after Buffalo’s ban was passed, the Pittsburgh City Council
passed a resolution supporting Buffalo’s ban on fracking.
Shortly afterward, it was revealed in New York State Department of
Environmental Conservation documents that wastewater from vertical fracking
wells has been knowingly accepted by Buffalo water treatment facilities,
although they could not properly treat it. Contaminants were therefore released
into the Niagara River, the water source for several towns and for the huge
mists of Niagara Falls.
Frack Action Buffalo has called for a demonstration at the Buffalo office of
the DEC on March 7, coordinating with solidarity actions at DEC headquarters in
the state capital and others across the state, to demand that New York’s
governor define this waste as “hazardous material” and keep it out
of sewage treatment plants that are unable to clean it.
“Buffalo is leading the way,” said Rita Yelda, a student at Buffalo
State and organizer with Frack Action Buffalo at their press conference
following the Council vote. “And we urge other cities and towns to pass
similar bans. We want to tell Albany: We will stand up in defense of our
communities if you will not.”
Fracking is unregulated at the federal level due to exemptions given to the
powerful gas and oil industry in the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water
Act and the Clean Air Act.
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