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Guest Column

May 14, 2011

How fracking made me an activist

My husband and I took a drive one Sunday from Brooklyn to Sharon Springs back in 1999. We were so moved by the tranquil, rural beauty of the land that we suddenly found ourselves buying an abandoned house on 80 acres and moving up here. A new way of life quickly sprouted. We now grow our own food, enjoy long walks with our dogs on the trails of our land and have a small business making breakfast cereal, which we sell all throughout the Northeast.

We started hearing about hydrofracking, but figured it was going on somewhere else far away, and after all, how bad could it be? Plus, we have government agencies that are supposed to regulate industries in America. That's what we thought, anyway.

Last month, we were invited to a anti-hydrofracking rally in Albany. Since we usually do our cereal drop-offs in Albany every Monday, we thought it would be perfect (and convenient) to check out the rally and see what all the fuss was about.

Before the rally, we did a little homework on the subject of hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground at extremely high pressure to crack layers of rock known as shale to access the oil or natural gas trapped in it.

What we are now learning is that each well that is fracked uses upwards of 2 million to 8 million gallons of fresh water, and the chemical additives (according to the EPA LIST OF Frack Fluids) that consist of toxins such as benzene, toluene, gluteraldehyde and a host of other carcinogens and neurotoxins.

We learned that the fracking fluids used by the gas company, get this, are exempt from our Clean Water Act from 1972. I’m not sure how they managed to do this, but back in 2005, a loophole was inserted into the 2005 Energy Policy Act, known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” which exempted fracking from regulation and oversight, claiming that the chemicals used in the fracking process were proprietary property.

Wow! I guess the federal government is not actually concerned about our clean water, so it looks like it is up to us. OK, off to the rally ...

We went to the rally carrying signs and joined a few hundred other citizens, which seems like a really small number, considering the gravity of this issue that is facing New Yorkers right now. We listened to a variety of speakers from Pennsylvania and New York who have had their wells and lives ruined by the gas companies.

We left the rally feeling saddened by the stories, but also energized to try and see what we could do to prevent this from happening around here. There are statistics out there that two-thirds of people who learn about hydrofracking are against it, so I encourage all of you to do your own homework.

I know we all have really busy lives and want to believe that there are others “taking care of things,” but they’re not, and the gas companies are banking on that!

Lisa Zacc aglini and her husband, Mike Shuster, own and operate Mu Mu Muesli, a natural cereal business, from their home in Sharon Springs.

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