Draft regulations on hydrofracking, Sandra Steingraber, and “30 Days of Fracking”


Adapted from Sandra Steingraber, biologist and author:

On Nov. 29, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation  issued draft regulations to allow fracking in New York. It was a cynical and reckless move—especially because the state’s own limited health review is not even finished, and Governor Cuomo has made no decision yet on whether to permit or prohibit fracking in our state.  The effect of the regs release has been to shift public perception toward the conclusion that fracking is on its way, like it or not.

To add insult to injury, we have only until January 11th to speak out against these regulations as part of an official 30-day public comment period.

The rulebook of proposed regulations is complicated, long, tedious and scary.  One of the regs  would allow a drill rig to be erected only 500 feet from homes and water wells.  Another would allow drilling and fracking operations to tunnel under our rivers and streams.  None of them mandate how drillers have to dispose of their toxic waste water, some of which is radioactive.  None of the compel the industry to reveal the identity of the fracking chemicals that they are pumping into the ground.

So, we need to flood the DEC with huge numbers of critical comments on huge numbers of mind-numbing regulations during a thirty-day period that falls right in the middle of the holiday season.

It’s the writing assignment from hell.  I had to think really hard about how to make it engaging and meaningful for lots of people.  I decided it would be far less painful–and generate a lot more comments–if I served this task up as a series of small, daily, meditative writing assignments synced to the various days of the calendar (winter solstice, Advent, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Epiphany, etc.).

So, I’m inviting people to compose and send in their thoughts on one reg a day for the next 30 days.  I’m doing the hard part–investigating the regs, translating them into everyday language, and providing the scientific context and evidence for each one.  And also attaching it to the right date on the holiday calendar, so we can get some lyrical, symbolic resonance going.  (Look for the solstice reg to have something to do with darkness and light.)

Then you take over from there and connect the dots.  All you need is one good, custom-made paragraph for each reg, perhaps embellished with a personal story.

December 12, is the first day of the project.  (But you can sign up any time.)

Thanks to a number of technical proficient members of the anti-fracking movement, Thirty Days of Fracking Regs is housed in an artful website with facebook and twitter elements to help promote it.  And there are choices, depending on your communications style.  Old school:  print out and mail each day.  21st century: press button and send.  In both cases, your comments end up at New Yorkers Against Fracking offices, where electronic submissions will be printed out and hand-delivered to the DEC.  Perhaps in a big box bedecked with a festive bow.  This plan allows us to count all the responses we get and also create a visual narrative of citizen resistance.

To repurpose a quip from my friend Bill McKibben:  Do the math.  If 100 of us commit to 30 regs in 30 days, we’ve sent 3,000 comments to the DEC.  A thousand of us = 30,000 comments.

At least 6,000 people in this state care so deeply about fracking that they are willing to take to the streets in acts of peaceful resistance should the Governor approve it.  I know this because I’m one of the caretakers of the “Pledge to Resist Fracking in New York” list of pledge signers.  And I’ve signed the pledge myself.

But I still believe in the power of speech, of proclaiming the truth.  I still believe in testimony, social criticism, oratory, logical argument, manifestos, and, well, making public comments.

The time may yet come when we have to lay our bodies down in defense of air, water, and health.  That said, I don’t think fracking in New York is inevitable.  I do think that we are now called to lay our words down.  All of us.

So that’s my invitation.  Below is the description as it appears on the website:  http://www.thirtydaysoffrackingregs.com/  I promise to bring as much beauty and light to this project as I can in the dark days ahead.

Please join me in sending a lava flow of declamation rolling towards Albany.  And forward this invitation to any caring, serious-minded person you know who is willing to work for a unfractured New Year for New York.  We especially need faith leaders in the movement to take this project into their places of worship.

Follow and promote 30 Days of Comments on Twitter: https://twitter.com/30daysNY.  Like the Facebook page for 30 Days of Fracking Regs and promote it:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/30-Days-of-Fracking-Regs/570728062944063.

Faithfully,   Sandra

Sandra Steingraber



At Thirty Days of Fracking Regs we take an Advent Calendar approach to commenting on the newly released draft regulations—the “regs”—which are the proposed set of rules that govern how fracking would be practiced in our state.

Each day throughout the 30-day comment period that ends on Jan. 11, we’ll open up a door into the book of regs and see what’s on the other side!

I’ll bring some plainspoken English and, when I can find it, scientific data, to illuminate our daily explorations. Then, in your own words, you’ll create an informed comment and send it to the DEC.