The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kate Fried, Food and Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

Consumer Group Attempts to Crack Governor Cuomo's Mysterious Meetings Schedule

Food & Water Watch Seeks Transparency Regarding Administration’s Meetings With Oil and Gas Industry and its Plans for Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant


What transpired at the Cuomo administration's meetings regarding two controversial high-profile energy issues? This question lies at the heart of a Freedom of Information Law request (FOIL) issued today by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch to the New York State Governor's Office asking for details of meetings regarding hydrofracking and the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. The FOIL request was prompted by insufficient public information regarding these meetings, as well as statements made by a representative of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York regarding the group's relationship with the Cuomo Administration.

Food & Water Watch reviewed Governor Cuomo's public schedule and only found five meetings pertaining to energy issues since he came into office in January.

"Governor Cuomo promised to make his schedule public, as well as details of meetings relating to issues in the public interest, but so far, he has not lived up to these transparency pledges," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. "His Citizens Connects website only lists five meetings relating to hydrofracking and the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant this year. Given the intensity of the debate around these issues and their importance to New Yorkers, it is shocking that there have been so few meetings to address them."

As a candidate, Cuomo promised to make his schedule available to the public, yet as Governor, it took him until September to release information about his schedule in a consistent manner, and he has divulged few details about the meetings he has made public. Furthermore, there is no record of meetings between his administration and members of the oil and gas industry. Yet a representative of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York alluded to the industry's relationship with the Cuomo Administration at September's Shale Gas Insight conference in Philadelphia, noting that they had met with the administration--a meeting that is not disclosed in his public meeting schedule.

"Governor Cuomo's first official act as governor, Executive Order No. 1, noted the importance of performing the business of government 'in an open and public manner.' That order seems questionable, perhaps even disingenuous at this point. That we've had to resort to a Freedom of Information Law request to get this basic information out of the Governor's office is extremely disconcerting," said Hauter.

Governor Cuomo has also publicly stated that New York will need to find a new source of power to replace the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant if it is shut down. Based on the fact that the Governor's schedule groups nuclear and energy issues together in a meeting convened on March 16, 2011, Food & Water Watch is concerned that the Cuomo administration might decide to replace nuclear energy from that derived from hyrofracking.

"Will Governor Cuomo ask New Yorkers to choose between a nuclear meltdown or poisoned drinking water? It's impossible to know, as his schedule and meeting notes are shrouded in so much mystery," said Hauter.

This FOIL request comes as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) plans to finalize regulations to allow fracking in the state. Cuomo has said that he would support the agency's recommendations on fracking, yet implementing the practice could be costly. A document recently distributed by the DEC shows the agency believes it will need an average of $20 million in each of the next five years to pay for new regulators and equipment to support fracking in New York, and at least three other state agencies have indicated it will need additional resources as well.

Next month, the DEC will hear from concerned citizens in Dansville, Binghamton, Sullivan County and New York City at hearings throughout the state to discuss proposed environmental regulations to allow fracking in the state.

Food & Water Watch's FOIL request can be read here.

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

(202) 683-2500