An environmental group opposed to high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in New York State has launched a campaign asking the top 1,000 contributors to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reelection effort to pressure him to ban the practice.
The group, New York Residents Against Drilling (NYRAD), started its campaign on Thursday with a letter written by Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting Inc., an Ithaca, NY-based company that tracks environmental data.
“Troubling rumors continue to swirl that Gov. Cuomo could soon make a final decision regarding shale gas fracturing in New York State,” Hang wrote. “There is no way for us to know what might be looming, but our efforts are nevertheless kicking into high gear. It might be now or never.
“If he hears from these contributors, it may be a more powerful message than when he hears from ordinary citizens.”
Cuomo’s administration is reportedly considering a plan to allow HVHF in at least five counties along the Pennsylvania border, but only in localities that support the practice and only following an endorsement by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which would regulate it (see Shale Daily, June 14).
It remains to be seen whether the NYRAD campaign will be effective, although it has already garnered support from other environmental groups and some local officials, including Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan.
Bill Mahoney, research coordinator the New York Public Interest Research Group, said NYRAD’s strategy might not be as effective as the group hopes. He said Cuomo has already amassed a $19 million war chest in his personal bank account, a figure that doesn’t include any outside donations sent to aid the Democrat in his presumed reelection bid in 2014.
“Campaign fundraising isn’t going to play that big of a role in Gov. Cuomo’s reelection efforts at this point,” Mahoney told NGI’s Shale Daily on Friday. “He’s already got nearly enough money in the bank to run his entire reelection campaign.”
But Mahoney added, “it certainly can’t hurt as a strategy. A lot of these donors have more access to Gov. Cuomo than average New Yorkers do. By virtue of their donations they often get one-on-one time with him at a fundraiser. So if they can be convinced that fracking is an issue they should care about, they will make more of an impression than most people will ever get a chance to.
“I don’t know how many of them will be influenced by receiving a letter. You’ve got to assume a lot of them have their mail pre-screened and it never even hits their desks. And if it does, then a lot of them may have already made up their minds one way or the other. It’s tough to say how many of them are undecided, but if [NYRAD] can get a few of those individuals who may not have made up their minds on this issue, then it’s possible it can make a difference.”
Cherie Messore, spokeswoman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGA), told NGI’s Shale Daily the campaign was just “one more device” being used by fracking opponents.
“Certainly anyone is free to use whatever method of communication they feel is most effective,” Messore said Friday. “The industry, however, chooses not to pursue opportunities like this. We’re all about educating the public and helping people come to a better understanding of the fairly complex science that is part and parcel of this industry.
“Badgering individuals for their personal choice and their personal philanthropy doesn’t fall under the rubric of furthering the understanding and opening up better chains of communications between people whose opinions may differ.”
Ryan and Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto could not be reached for comment Friday.
Cuomo is eligible to run for reelection in 2014, although he hasn’t officially announced that he will seek a second term. He defeated Republican challenger Carl Paladino in the 2010 election, carrying more than 62% of the vote.
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