But Fracking Is Banned In New York, Right?

But Fracking Is Banned In New York, Right?

A glimpse into the bigger picture of shale gas development.

On January 21, 2015, scientists, doctors, homeowners, documentarians and activists alike swarmed the New York State Capitol to deliver a message to Governor Andrew Cuomo at his State of the State Address. That message was, surprisingly enough, one of gratitude. Hours later, this same swarm migrated into the Albany Hilton for a victory party. The occasion? A statewide prohibition of hydraulic fracturing--"fracking"--the controversial fossil fuel extraction process--because of a 184-page report from the Department of Health declaring the risk of public health harm was too high to ignore.

A triumph of science and people power, was it not?

Call me cynical, but more importantly, call me Pennsylvanian. I come from a poor family living on a small farm on a dirt road in a minuscule rural town called Dimock, located in the northeastern corner of the state in Susquehanna County. If the name Dimock rings a bell, you may have seen films such as Gasland and Gasland II, which documented families across the country who have experienced the fear, deception, and (literally and figuratively) toxic changes to their communities, bodies, water, soil, and air that arrived with the shale gas development industry.

Our town is in a prime location for this development for more than one reason. The most obvious reason is that Dimock is located on the Marcellus Shale formation, which has been called the Saudi Arabia of natural gas for the amount it could bear. Another especially significant yet often overlooked factor is the poverty plaguing Dimock and the surrounding area. This played a key role in the rapid and massive hold the industry was able to take on the local population: the jobs were needed, the money was promised, and there were so few other options being offered. A decade later, fracking has yet to be halted in Pennsylvania, and as of today a federal jury trial is taking place, in which two Dimock families continue to name Cabot Oil and Gas (the company responsible for fracking and related activities in the area) as the culprits behind their water sources being contaminated irreparably--though numerous other families in the same circumstances were unable to continue the fight and settled in 2012.

Tap water from the Ely household photographed in January 2016. Photo courtesy of Vera Scroggins.

The Marcellus Shale extends into New York State as well, but New York has more money than Pennsylvania. While some parts of New York State remain interested in bringing fracking jobs into their communities, many people prefer to invite less hazardous industries into the state. In fact, the jobs themselves are not only full of health dangers, they are shrouded by industry secrets that make getting adequate medical help potentially impossible. The wealthier citizens of New York were more able to protect their state from fracking--especially when armed with alarming reports of water contamination, air pollution, and health hazards in areas where fracking occurred.

In other words, New York State residents looked across the border at our state of emergency and said "yikes, sure wouldn't want that to happen up here."

And yet?

If I have learned one thing from this ordeal, it's that people like to say the word "fracking." I have seen campaign after cutesy campaign with slogans like "frack you," "frack the frackers," "go frack yourselves," etc. And while hydraulic fracturing itself is linked to myriad problems, it's just one step in the shale gas development process--and the problems that come with every other step are blamed on the fracturing process alone.

This is where New York messed up. Banning fracking alone did not keep fracking out of the state. The ban did not address storage of pressurized fracked gas in salt caverns, despite the risks. Pipelines such as the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline and the Constitution Pipeline carrying fracked gas through New York are being built, which is not only an environmentally destructive process in itself, but it draws New York into the fracking cycle.

Tree clearings for the Constitution Pipeline and a sign in protest of the development at a sugar maple farm along the pipeline's route. Photos courtesy of Vera Scroggins.

So the next time you hear someone say how glad they are that fracking is banned in New York, remind them that the gas doesn't magically vanish after its extraction from the ground. For New York to be a truly frack-free state, it needs a ban that includes compressor stations pumping the gas through the pipelines, which are not exactly something most people want in their neighborhoods as it is, and every other piece of the shale gas development puzzle.

As a Dimock girl living in the capital of New York State, I feel a connection between our states that is stronger than a pipeline. If we work together across our shared political border, maybe we can find the solution we have wanted all along.

Cover Image Credit: Vera Scroggins

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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'Welcome To Class! In Case Of A School Shooting...'

School shootings seem to be the new norm, my professors are supposed to tell us what to do in case it becomes our norm.

The first day of Spring quarter, I was given the usual rundown of the syllabus, we went over all of the normal things professors talk about on the first day, grading policies, attendance, etc. But I was shocked when my instructor explained the protocol for an active shooter situation should one take place on campus. My initial reaction was shocking, the only things running through my head is, that could never happen here, this is a waste of time. But as he continued to speak about it, I realized, that's probably what other students have thought too.

We are now five months into the year, and as of May 18th, there have been 22 school shootings in the United States alone. Some schools are preparing for these situations by updating their school security, making students have clear backpacks, and in our case, having a protocol ready if this occurred on our own campus.

So why aren't all schools doing these things? It does cost money, however, room needs to be made for these extra costs.

School is supposed to be a safe place, not a war-zone.

Clear backpacks may be a little drastic, however, more cameras, intercom systems at main entrances to allow access, and, of course, some type of protocol. Our teachers face enough stress in their day-to-day lives. By not funding these resources, we are saying we don't care about their safety. Dedicated teachers are ready to lose their life if it means they can protect their students.

They shouldn't have to.

Anya Kamenetz with NPR explains a good way to prevent school shootings would be to have more mental health professionals available in the schools themselves, while even creating a social-emotional curriculum. It is not, however, a good idea to target students because they may be introverted or uninterested in everyday activities. Would you enjoy someone being your friend specifically because they were scared you might shoot up a school? I didn't think so. Sadly, it always gets worse, before it gets better.

But the problem has become so widespread it's harder to stop and harder to pinpoint the issue. Stop focusing on politics, this isn't about one side or the other, it's about the loss of lives. Students not wanting to go to school because they fear for their lives, and even about having to worry if you'll make it through the school day.

If both sides of the political agenda could just genuinely focus on how to fix this problem and stop telling each other they're wrong, we may be able to stop this thing.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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