While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was inside the Empire State Plaza Convention Center yesterday outlining his plan to make New York the “progressive capital of the nation,” 1,500 people were outside with a suggestion about one way he can ensure that happens.

For about a year, Cuomo has been weighing whether to lift the state’s ban on hydraulic fracturing. Last summer, it seemed that he was close to allowing fracking in certain regions of the state, but instead he postponed the decision and called for research into possible health effects of the practice. (A leaked report suggesting that there were no negative effects has been widely dismissed as insufficient.)
Marching through the Department of Justice. Criminalize fracking?
Opponents of fracking took advantage of Cuomo’s speech — and its attendant cameras — to ensure that the pressure remains high. From EcoWatch:

More than 1,500 New Yorkers from every corner of the state descended on Albany [Wednesday] to rally against fracking outside of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address. The group delivered a clear message calling for the governor to reject fracking, implement a statewide ban, and be a leader in clean, renewable energy for New York and the nation. …

“Governor Cuomo, don’t do this,” said Logan Adsit, a resident of Pharsalia in Chenango County, which is located in the Southern Tier that the Cuomo administration has indicated as a target of fracking. “Don’t poison my family. Don’t poison anyone’s family. This state, which my family has called home for generations, should not become your toxic legacy. That’s what I’ve come here to say today.”

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Fracking was never expected to be mentioned in Cuomo’s speech, since, as an adviser told the Democrat and Chronicle, the issue is currently being reviewed.

Earlier this week, a coalition of environmental groups called on Cuomo to maintain the ban. From the Times Union:

“While we welcome your determination to lead on climate change, we are greatly concerned by indications that you may soon allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in New York,” the letter asserted. “A decision to allow HVHF would be a direct contradiction of your promise to lead on climate change. Opening New York’s doors to this form of extreme fossil fuel extraction undercuts your pledge to make environmental protection, including initiatives that address climate change, a legislative priority.”

The protesters had a point. Cuomo’s speech was heavy on climate change and clean energy, and he placed particular emphasis on being a progressive leader. By postponing and isolating the fracking decision, Cuomo has drawn more attention to it and penned himself in. His environmental leadership will now be judged largely on this issue, despite the string of energy and climate goals he outlined yesterday. For a guy who almost certainly wants to solidify Democratic support leading up to 2016, Cuomo has an exposed flank on the issue of fracking.

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Fracking opponents clearly know it.

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