Shalefield Stories

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Heather Leibowitz

Residents on the Frontlines of Fracking Tell Their Personal Stories in New Booklet

Environment New York

[New York, NY] — As Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to weigh a decision on whether to allow hydraulic fracturing in New York, residents next door in Pennsylvania today recounted their stories of illness, water contamination, and damage to their livelihoods due to dirty drilling operations. Environment New York Research & Policy Center presented the residents’ Shalefield Stories as the latest evidence for rejecting fracking, even as the State Energy Planning Board called for expanding the use of natural gas just last month.

“Behind the alarming numbers that outline fracking’s environmental damage, there are real people whose lives have been gravely impacted by these polluting practices,” said Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York Research & Policy Center. “These are their stories, and it is our responsibility to heed their words of warning on fracking.”

People recalling their experiences with fracking damage in Shalefield Stories include:

  • Judy Armstrong Stiles of Bradford County, Pa., who spoke of the barium and arsenic that was found in her drinking water, and then in her blood, after Chesapeake began drilling on her land; and
  • June Chappel of Washington County, Pa., who lived with a 15 million gallon fracking waste pit just 200 feet from her house.

“They [the gas industry] have come to Pennsylvania, raped the land, contaminated the water, air, and soil and fractured our communities. Hearing people naively talking about how great it will be when they come to New York saddens me,” said Tammy Manning, a resident of Franklin Forks, Pa. While Shalefield Stories was compiled by individual residents in Pennsylvania, there have also been similar tragedies in other fracking states, including Colorado, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia.

One of the common themes running through Shalefield Stories is how people have become sick living on the frontlines of fracking.  “‘Shalefield Stories’ is a compilation of real-life, agonizing experiences of ordinary American citizens who have suffered disease, pain, disability, even untimely death as a result of the reckless pursuit of natural gas by the Gas and Oil industry,” said  Sheila Bushkin-Bedient, MD, MPH. “These stories reveal first-hand accounts of personal illnesses and losses, and of unprecedented contamination of private property and the environment, with the apparent consent of many local governments. Sadly, the enormity of environmental and human abuses by the fracking industry portends a future of increasing incidence of serious disease and ever-growing healthcare costs and diminishing quality of life throughout America.” 

Environment New York Research & Policy Center presented Shalefield Stories today, as another multi-billion dollar pipeline has just been proposed that would ship natural gas fracked in other states across the Capital region of New York. 

“Fracking is exposing everyone in the path of its infrastructure to highly toxic industrial chemicals that do not belong in residential or agricultural communities such as Minisink; yes, right here in New York State,” said Pramilla Malick, founder of StopMCS and Protect Orange County, two grassroots community organizations in New York struggling against gas infrastructure related to fracking. “None of this has been proven safe and many new studies indicate that we could be on the precipice of a public health catastrophe. This is essentially a matter of human rights.”

“Anyone who doubts the damage of dirty drilling simply has to look next door to the nightmare unfolding in Pennsylvania. We have known this truth for some time. But now we are hearing it from the source, from the very people living on the frontlines of fracking,” concluded Leibowitz. “We urge our decision-makers in Albany to ban fracking so we can swiftly close the door on dirty drilling.”

“Hydrofracking is not worth the risk it poses to New Yorkers. Now is the time for Governor Cuomo to show the rest of the nation that New York will not add to fracking’s tragic story,” said New York State Senator Tony Avella.

On the federal level, last summer the Obama administration received more than a million comments urging for much stronger protections from fracking for national forests and national parks. In addition, Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA) has introduced CLEANER (H.R. 2825) — a bill to close the loophole exempting oil and gas waste from the nation’s hazardous waste law.

“What experiences like these show is that states are not protecting people from this dirty drilling,” said Leibowitz. “It’s time for Washington to step in; ultimately they need to ban fracking in order to protect our environment and public health. They can start by barring fracking in and around our national parks and national forests, and closing the loophole that exempts fracking from core provisions of our nation’s bedrock environmental and public health laws.”

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Environment New York Research & Policy Center is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. Our professional staff combines independent research, practical ideas, and tough-minded advocacy to overcome the opposition of powerful special interests and win real results for New York’s environment. As part of Environment America, we fight to protect our air, water, and open spaces here in New York, in state capitals across the country, and in Washington D.C.

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