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State Fair hydrofracking protests draw activists and politicians

Ellen Abbott
Hydrofracking protesters rally against the controversial natural gas drilling process at the New York State Fair.

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo says there has been no progress on a decision about hydrofracking in New York state, the movement opposing the controversial gas extracting technology gets louder. There are a couple of candidates in the upcoming election who want to tap into this anti-fracking fervor.

"We got the people power, la la la," yelled several protesters gathered at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. "We got the people power, la la la!"

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO
A hydrofracking protester holds a sign showing support for Democratic primary gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout.

Every year for the past few years, there have been anti-fracking protesters at the fair - mostly farmers with grassroots environmentalists joining in.

But this year the anti-fracking demonstration in front of the main gate of the fair had a decidedly political look to it, with the two anti-fracking candidates in the September Democratic primary on hand, including Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University professor, as well as Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.  

Teachout says Cuomo’s lack of a decision on fracking is one of the benchmark issues of her campaign. She has been speaking to anti-fracking groups statewide and hopes to tap into those voters.

“The core reason is Andrew Cuomo’s silence on hydrofracking, when it’s very clear that’s what Democrats want,” Teachout said. "On September ninth listen to what can happen if every person in New York state opposed to hydrofracking votes. I will be the next governor of New York state.”

Teachout says she admires the anti-hydrofracking activists because they've been successful in keeping the fracking debate in limbo in New York state.

"Every other shale rich state has given into the big money interests," Teachout said. "And in New York people have come together to protect our future, our kids, our water, our precious, precious water supply. They’ve explained how reckless and dangerous it is, and now they’ve stopped hydrofracking. They can stop Andrew Cuomo as well.”

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO
Zephyr Teachout, who is running against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in this September's Democratic primary, is one of two candidates who would ban hydrofracking in New York state.

If Teachout and others fail in their bid to topple Cuomo in the September primary, then the job falls to Hawkins, of Syracuse, who also ran for governor four years ago.

"The reason I came in third in 2010 is I called for a ban when most of the movement was calling for a moratorium," Hawkins said. "Some were even saying that fracking and natural gas would be a lesser evil than coal. After the election, this group popped up with a ban for fracking. Groups that had a moratorium position now called for a ban. We moved the debate. And when we come to November, I’ll likely be the only ban-fracking candidate on the ballot, and I think it’s going to make a big difference.”

Hawkins also expects to get the anti-fracking vote in the general election.

“I think that along with the schools, this is the biggest issue in the campaign," Hawkins explained. "I mean look at this, this is the most energized movement along with the fight against high stakes testing and funding schools, across the state.”

In the latest Quinnipiac University poll, Democrats in New York state opposed fracking by a 60-to-29 percent margin. The Cuomo administration has been studying the effects of the hot political issue for almost seven years now, with no decision one way or another. There is currently a moratorium against the drilling method in New York state.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.