We’re now more than half way through the budget hearings and this past Monday’s hearing on environmental conservation was even more contentious than the education hearing. A League member was able to attend the hearing and report back to us on the happenings. Fracking, of course, dominated the hearing and there was a major turnout of anti-fracking activists – so large a turnout that our volunteer nearly did not make it into the packed hearing room. The morning started with DEC Commissioner, Joe Martins, in the hot seat, being grilled about the potential health and economic impacts of hydrofracking. Martins’s answers bunted a number of the health issues back to DOH and also confirmed that there isn’t any funding in this year’s budget for DEC operations that would oversee fracking. A number of Martins’s answers drew boos and groans from the audience. The most cheers and applauds came during Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton’s questions and comments. Lifton criticized the DEC’s process in developing the environmental impact report, calling the process “convoluted and not transparent.” She later highlighted a report from Pennsylvania that 400 families in Washington County need to have water delivered due to contamination of their water supply caused by fracking. The assemblywoman went on to say that the public does not even have all the information about instances like this because of industry nondisclosure agreements and a recent gag order placed on doctors in Pennsylvania. She concluded with asking Commissioner Martins “Does it make you uncomfortable to hear these things coming out of Pennsylvania?” The commissioner responded that he’s uncomfortable with any instance of corporate irresponsibility, but that he thinks it unfair to paint the entire drilling industry as irresponsible. As the Commissioner’s testimony concluded, the large crowd started chanting “Not one well.” The protest continued out into the hall and then over to the Million Dollar Staircase where an anti-fracking rally was held. The League supported the issuing of the moratorium on hydrofracking. Click here for more on the League’s position.
Tuesday was a much quieter day, but an exciting one as it was LWVNY’s lobby day! There was a great turnout from leagues ranging from all the way from Rochester to NYC and many more. Attendees got to meet over bagels and coffee and listen to League issue specialists discuss League legislative priorities on healthcare, early voting and absentee ballots, reproductive choice, pay equity, hydrofracking, campaign finance reform, and financing education. After the morning workshop, attendees got to see just how crowded the Capitol Café gets during lunch, as about 20 of us tried to squeeze in and grab some lunch before touring the capitol and the Legislative Office Building. Many league members visited with their legislators (or legislative staff) to discuss the League’s policy agenda. It was a great day and we hope even more will join us next year!
We’re still continuing to meet with new legislators to introduce them to the League and discuss our policy agenda. Meetings are going well, and will start to pick up post-budget as the legislature starts to turn its attention to things like campaign finance reform and women’s equality.