President Obama Needs to Follow the Empire State's Leadership on Banning Fracking

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President Obama Needs to Follow the Empire State's Leadership on Banning Fracking

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo greets fracking protesters outside his office in New York. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)

On December 17, a courageous act by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking in the state sent shockwaves around the world. Governor Cuomo followed acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Zucker's recommendation based on a significant and growing body of scientific studies showing that drilling and fracking put people's health and the environment at risk.

The impacts include health problems, water contamination, dangerous air pollution, threats to agriculture and soil quality, radioactive releases, earthquakes, and more.

Considering the weight of the evidence, Dr. Zucker asked himself if he would let his family live near a drill rig. He said no. That's what millions of New Yorkers have been saying for years: no to fracking in our communities. In the rich historical footsteps of the state's social movements, New York's anti-fracking movement is now one of the largest social movements in America today, and I'm proud to be part of it. Millions of educated and engaged citizens have been following the science and looking to heavily fracked Pennsylvania, where horrifying stories of poisoned water, sick families and animals, and environmental ruin have become far too common.

Given the clear harms wrought by fracking, it's little surprise that in a recent poll, the majority of the New Yorkers -- 55 percent to 25 percent -- supported Governor Cuomo's decision to ban fracking. So do the health and scientific communities, with groups voicing concerns about fracking including the New York State Medical Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics in New York, and the American Lung Association in New York.

Three other analyses of the science in December 2014 alone also reached similar conclusions. The provincial government of Quebec indefinitely extended its own moratorium on fracking, based on health and environmental concerns as detailed in a 540-page report. In a statistical analysis of the evidence, Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy found that a large majority of the approximately 400 peer-reviewed papers on drilling and fracking indicate dangers. And Concerned Health Professionals of New York released an updated Compendium on the risks and harms of fracking to health, water, air, wildlife, and economic vitality, determining that there is no evidence that fracking can be done safely, but a great deal showing harms.

Despite the fact that New York's decision is based on the best science, President Obama's administration had the audacity to denounce the decision. Last week Obama's Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said fracking bans make it "very difficult for the industry to figure out" rules in different areas, and stem from what she sees as bad science and misinformation. That simply doesn't hold up to the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies from leading scientific researchers and institutions demonstrating problems and harms. And frankly, we would like to see our public officials putting public health before concerns about the oil and gas industry's confusion.

You may ask why President Obama had Interior Secretary Jewell be the one to publicly push back on New York's fracking ban. The answer is likely simple. She is currently polishing up regulations to frack our national forests and federal lands, expected soon. This has to stop.

While we've heard pro-fracking propaganda before from the Obama administration, many Americans have had enough of it and I'm one of them. In 2008, I voted for 'Hope and Change,' but we are not getting the change we hoped for. Thus far, President Obama's energy policy has been wildly at odds with his climate change rhetoric. Instead of ushering in the brighter renewable energy future we desperately need, he has been touting fracking and natural gas, setting us backward. He's been ignoring not only the science on fracking, but the voices of the hard-working Americans who are suffering from fracking while he puts big oil and gas first. As President Theodore Roosevelt said, "A nation that poisons its soil, poisons itself."

Fracking is not safe for New York and it's not safe for our national forests and federal lands. That's why I partnered with Food & Water Watch on a Move On petition to Sally Jewell asking her to ban fracking on public lands. Click here to sign it and join me in contacting Secretary Jewell and President Obama to tell them not to frack our lands and parks. Call now -- 1-866-581-3558.

Together we can protect our national forests and federal lands for present and future generations. Join us!

Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo is an actor, director, film producer and screenwriter. He received an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role in The Kids Are All Right (2010). He lives in upstate New York, and has campaigned against hydraulic fracturing for natural gas
 

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