By now, you’ve probably heard something about hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking” as it’s more commonly known). The controversial method for extracting natural gas from shale involves drilling thousands of feet into the earth and injecting millions of gallons of sand, water and a long list of chemicals that, by law, don’t have to be disclosed. The prize of more natural gas has been pitted against the disastrous environmental impact fracking is suspected to cause, including earthquakes and poisoned water supplies.
The nasty business of fracking is already underway in several states and Governor Cuomo is poised to add New York to that list and commence fracking under the Marcellus Shale – which extends underneath large tracts of farm and dairy land.
A group of concerned food folks in New York are pushing back.
The Chefs for the Marcellus is:
… a group of chefs, restaurateurs, and other food professionals who have come together to protect our regional foodshed from the dangers of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (fracking). This highly industrialized form of drilling is already in widespread use in 34 states, including Pennsylvania, where it is wreaking havoc with farms and the water supply. Unless we say no right now, Governor Cuomo is poised to allow fracking in vast areas of the Marcellus Shale, a geologic formation that covers a large area of the mid-Atlantic region, including much of New York’s southern tier — an area of pristine waters; produce, dairy and livestock farms; and breweries and wineries. Nearly 100 prominent chefs and food professionals from upstate and downstate have already endorsed our campaign. Please get involved by writing to Governor Cuomo and asking him to ban fracking in New York State.
The Chefs for the Marcellus group is also hosting a benefit event this Thursday, July 26th at the Brooklyn Winery, featuring food, wine and beer from the Marcellus region. If you live in the area, this surely will be a worthy, tasty evening.
For a participant’s point of view we spoke with Hilary Baum (a member of the group’s committee), Chef Mary Cleaver from The Green Table, and Fatty Crew Executive Chef Corwin Kave to get their take on what’s at stake for New York state if fracking is allowed to commence.
Here’s what they had to say:
What is ‘Chefs for the Marcellus’?
Baum: We are a campaign of chefs, restaurateurs, producers, purveyors and other food professional who have come together to protect our farms, food and water from fracking. We are an awareness raising and activist group of businesses and individuals who are taking a stand against fracking and who also work to support the region's food and beverage producers.
Cleaver: We’re a group of chefs who understand the important role we play in keeping our food and water supply healthy and life giving.
Kave: Chefs with passion for quality products, who shake the hands of these farmers multiple times a week at markets, chefs who preach the high quality of their products to their patrons, chefs who make their livelihoods from using high quality local produce and other foods, are coming together to show our local governments that their will be no gain. There is no positive outcome for their people or their environment. We all collectively know better. Now taste what we create day after day and allow us to show you why this food community is so important.
What is at stake if Governor Cuomo allows hydro-fracking to commence?
Baum: There is much at stake if fracking is allowed to begin on a variety of levels. What is basically at risk is irreversible pollution of the water, air, land, people and animals. Many believe that fracking is the most threatening environmental issue of our time; an unacceptable threat to the future, to health, to agriculture, tourism, property values, rural and urban communities, and culture.
There is not adequate environmental protection by the government – and certainly not by industry – especially since the Halliburton Loophole exempts the industry from more than 20 environmental laws. The State of New York has still not studied the effects of fracking on human health or the effects on the agricultural economy. People all over the US and the world are watching what our governor is going to decide for New York, an obviously highly populous state where the water supply for millions of people will be put at risk, and where opposition has been documented in the legislature, in a diversity of communities and municipalities around the state, and in the press. Cuomo's political future is at stake as well. This might be the one of gravest mistakes he can make, and he will be constantly reminded of it.
Cleaver: The vitality of our local food and farm economy is at stake if Governor Cuomo allows this dangerous practice to go forward.
Kave: The environment is most at stake. The pollution of our soil and ground water will be detrimental to these areas for generations to come. Knowing what we know now, as simply a people with common sense is sufficient enough to stop this program. What will we find out years from now?
What does hydraulic fracturing have to do with food?
Baum: Healthy farming is dependent on abundant supplies of clean water, clean air and clean soil. Not only can pollution from the fracking process affect these resources, the fragmentation of the land by drilling pads, compressors and pipelines will negatively impact farm operations. Farming and fracking do not mix, and the perception of this fact will affect consumer confidence in food produced anywhere nearby. There is also concern now that when fracked PA or NY gas comes into professional and home kitchens, unacceptable amounts of radon will be released when stoves are lit.
Cleaver: Hydro-fracking poisons the water supply, and as the food system depends on water, the food supply is threatened.
Kave: The pollution of the environment that is so bountiful in produce and other foods will handicap food production in these areas forever. Full communities who farm as a way of life will be affected and all the progress we've made in recent years as a local culinary community is at stake.
Some very influential food folks have signed on for this event. What does that say about what’s at stake?
Baum: What this says – what all members of our campaign are saying – is that fracking will have a lasting disastrous impact on so much of what we love about life, that we need to fight to protect our resources, and we need to develop alternatives to fossil fuel.
Cleaver: Some of us understand that our natural resources are finite and we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels, not ramp it up. The fact that so many people – including those who have influence in the food world – are speaking out illustrates how dangerous this practice is.
Kave: It speaks for itself
What can people do to stop hydro-fracking?
Baum: People should take action by calling the governor's office (866 961 3208) on Mondays and voice their opposition to fracking; they can help educate their community about the threats of fracking and how to protest; they can visit NYAgainstFracking.org or ChefsfortheMarcellus.org for more information.
Cleaver: Support your local farmers and producers in the Marcellus area – it’s difficult to make a living as a farmer and they need all the help they can get. You can also write, call and email your local elected officials and Governor Cuomo to speak out against hydrofracking.
Kave: Support your local farms and food businesses. Spend time outside enjoying nature and the environment and above all get excited. Get excited that people are willing to come together to push back and join the push. Write your local representatives.
The Taste of the Marcellus event details:
What: A Fundraiser to Fight Fracking in New York State
When: Thursday, July 26th, 2012, from 7 PM-10 PM
Where: Brooklyn Winery, 213 N. 8th Street, Brooklyn, NY
General admission: $125
After-party (10 PM – midnight): $25, complimentary Ommegang beer and music.
Contact Governor Cuomo and tell him what you think about fracking.
Honorable Andrew Cuomo
Albany, NY 12224
Take part, raise your voice and help keep NY state's precious agricultural resources clean.
**This article was edited to include answers from Corwin Kave.
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