Niagara Gazette — A binational Great Lakes coalition passed a resolution calling on cities to better regulate hydraulic fracturing.
The resolution passed despite an effort to table it for another year, as happened a year ago at the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative's annual meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Mayor Paul Dyster is on the organization's board of directors and was elected as the regional director for the coalition's Great Lakes Lower Region, which includes New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Dyster, Mayor Richard Harvey of Nipigon, Ont., and Mayor Jean-Guy Desrosiers of Montmagny, Quebec, brought the resolution to the floor at the binational coalition's annual meeting in Quebec City, Quebec. Dyster has been at the meeting discussing the many environmental issues that threaten the Great Lakes since Tuesday. He will return to city hall on Monday.
The resolution, which includes language acknowledging the natural gas industry's ability to boost local economies through job creation and investment while also calling for more transparency in regard to the contents of industry waste fluids and consistency between new laws on municipal, state and federal levels, was carefully crafted to address the nuanced issues that arise around the resource extraction process, Dyster said.
"It's very important for this organization to take a stand," Dyster said.
The coalition is advisory in nature but is comprised of civic leaders who can go back to their municipalities and put into place the policies and practices decided upon at meetings and conferences.
"One of the things that we are trying to do here is act locally, but also to act as a binational region," Dyster said. "The organization is advisory but it is considered influential."
The Falls garnered national media attention last year when the city council passed a resolution to ban the processing of waste fluid within the city. The resolution, written by council member Glenn Choolokian, and brought to vote by Choolokian, council member Robert Anderson and council chairman Sam Fruscione, was a reaction to plans from the Niagara Falls Water Board. The board was considering processing waste water fluid to bolster dwindling revenues.
Choolokian said that he is supportive of the Dyster's involvement in the organization.
"I like to see anything being done to affect what happens to our waters," Choolokian said.
Choolokian wrote the resolution, with the help of Buffalo Common Council member Rich Fontana, to withstand any attempts to amend or challenge the city law. He fears that the amount of money being spent by energy companies to advertise and lobby may sway the decisions of lawmakers in New York, he said.
"I don't care who gets involved to try to loosen up that resolution," he said. “I believe that the resolution would hold up in court."
No amount of private study or advertising will convince Choolokian that hydraulic fracturing or the cleaning of the waste fluid can be done without harming the environment, he said.
"I've got a file bigger than me that says how dangerous this stuff is," he said.
With the industrial legacy that exists in the region lawmakers need to be extremely careful in how hazardous materials are handled. It's sad that area fisherman still have to limit the amount of fish that they eat, Choolokian said.
"Why would you want to contaminate a waterway between two beautiful lakes," Choolokian said. "It's unbelievable what we've got here."