Assemblywoman Lifton speaks at a fracking rally this summer. Courtesy of her Facebook page

Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca area NY Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton says she has spent about 80 percent of her working hours over the last six years on one issue: Fracking.

The controversial gas extraction process, she said, captured the energy and intensity of her constituents like no other.

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Lifton heard more from the public about fracking than about any other topic. She devoted 2 members of her small staff to focus on the issue. She visited Pennsylvania twice to see the impact of fracking on that state.

Assemblywoman Lifton speaks at a fracking rally this summer. Courtesy of her Facebook page
Assemblywoman Lifton speaks at a fracking rally this summer. Courtesy of her Facebook page

She read papers and articles and books. She attended more meetings and rallies, and answered more phone calls and emails, than she could possibly care to count.

Then came the news on Wednesday: Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that fracking will be banned in NY State. Lifton and tens of thousands across the state had gotten what they’d wanted for the better half of a decade.

“I’m poking myself; I’m pinching myself; I’m beyond ecstatic,” she said in an interview with The Voice Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s going to take me awhile to process this.”

From The New York Times account of the announcement:

The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.

“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.

That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

Southern Tier activists celebrate

The news was welcome for environmental activists across the state, but especially those from the Southern Tier area — where fracking, if passed, was expected to be heavy.

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Here’s a very incomplete list of local fracking-related protests and events over the last few years, according to other media outlets (most events occurred before The Voice existed):

— August 2011: Martha Robertson attends anti-fracking protest

— October 2011: NY Times reporter talks in Ithaca about fracking

November 2011: Anti-fracking film shown at Ithaca College

— December 2011: Ithacans express opposition to fracking

— February 2012: Ithaca College activists oppose fracking

— February 2013: IC students go to D.C. to protest fracking

— February 2013: Ithacans step up fracking protests

— April 2013: 3 anti-fracking activists, including Cornell prof, arrested

— July 2013: Anti-fracking rally held in Ithaca

Jan. 7, 2014: Bus takes Ithaca anti-fracking activists to Albany

— February 2014: Fracking debate at Cornell

— July 2013: Anti-fracking activists protest Cuomo’s visit to Ithaca

Related: Ithaca’s fracking foes declare jubilant victory after ‘sacrificing day and night for years’

“So much effort has gone into this,” Lifton said. “It’s been a monumental task.”

Lifton praised Gov. Cuomo and the DEC for making what she said was the right decision. She also gushed about the different groups, both inside government and out, that had made the victory possible.

“There are a lot of other issues I could easily work on — 500 smaller issues,” she said. “but you have to prioritize, and some things fall off the table … This is an issue I had to stay on top of every day.”

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.