By Nicole Breskin
STUYVESANT HIGH SCHOOL — Hundreds of people attended a meeting in lower Manhattan Tuesday to rally against a controversial plan to drill for natural gas upstate that they believe could affect the city's water supply.
Politicians and environmental activists, who convened at Stuyvesant High School, said they believed that the plan to use a procedure called hydrofracking would unleash unknown illnesses, pollution and fiscal ruin on the city.
“I am afraid for my children, for New Yorkers and the environment,” Chelsea resident Alexandra Of Greece told DNAinfo.
“We take water for granted. It’s our energy. But to think of water as poisonous is scary.”
The proposal by state lawmakers to allow Halliburton and others to drill for natural gas on the New York section of the Marcellus Shale has drawn the ire of Manhattan politicians, such as Scott Stringer, who fear the procedure could contaminate the city's water supply.
Stringer, who has been building anti-fracking support at Community Board meetings, drew the most applause at the meeting, which also included officials from the mayor's office.
“The prospect of natural gas drillings in the watersheds is the greatest environmental threat facing New Yorkers today,” Stringer said. “There is only one correct response to this threat — a permanent and complete ban on hydraulic fracturing in the Catskills-Delaware watershed.”
The gas extraction procedure involves blowing water and chemicals into rock beds to free up the gas. The procedure would happen upstate in the Marcellus Shale, which stretches into the state’s watershed.
“Disease, pollution, it’s horrendous what this could do,” said Barbara Gautier, of the Lower East Side. “I don’t want to get to the point where we have to pay to fix it.”
Some lawmakers, including Gov. David Paterson, have argued that allowing fracking to take place upstate would bring in much needed revenue for the state.
Fracking is already used in other states, including Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Colorado, but some residents in those places have already complained about side effects from the procedure.
Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler said the DEC’s regulations were of “serious concern.” But he was interrupted when Emerson Running Sky, a New Yorker promoting the Safe Water Movement, jumped on stage during Skyler’s speech.
“If politicians like Bloomberg or Paterson really wanted a ban, they could do it now," he said. "Why not call for a ban now?”
Four hearings are taking place across New York State. After the final hearing, on Nov. 18 in Corning, N.Y., DEC will review comments and mull alterations to the guidelines.
“We’ll consider if changes to the proposal should be made,” said DEC spokesperson Yancey Roy. “We’re just taking it in now.”