By Sarah Zappulla

Widener University Environmental Politics and Policy Student

The town of Dryden, located in New York, is a quiet space full of farms and ranches.  However, in August 2011, the town passed a zoning law that bans fracking after a long time of lobbying against it.  The ordinance created a lawsuit being looked over by the Court of Appeal, the highest court.  The ruling will settle the issue of being able to drill or not.  Fracking is increasing significantly; other places have created bans against fracking causing legal action to up rise.  The passing of these ordinances and lawsuits of hydraulic fracturing is going to define the future of oil and gas industries in New York.

Local governments are taking a stand and putting in time and effort to stop fracking.  The State Health Department has gotten involved with the issue.  A study was ordered by the Department of Environmental Conservation to guide decisions on fracking.  People who support hydraulic fracturing believe a new industry can be introduced creating more jobs and decreasing the unemployment rates.  On the other hand, others especially environmentalists know the impacts on watersheds and aquifers are not good due to the water use and release of chemicals released into the ground.

Recent polls show that 43% of voters oppose fracking and 38% approve.  There still have been no decisions about fracking.  This can be a result of next year’s second term elections.  If you look at hydraulic fracturing as a great economic booster, then it benefits NY.  However, is that short-term economy booster worth the long-term environmental effects?


Utah’s State and Local Governments Deal with National Park Shutdowns

by Emily Bonney

Widener University Political Science Major

The government shutdown is affecting more than the vacationers’ itinerary in Utah as well as several other states hosting National Parks and Monuments. The closing of the parks is affecting the economy, shown by the five counties in Utah that declared a state of emergency for their economies.  Utah Counties threatened to bring some old western posse justice to the federal barricades to dismantle them due to the huge amounts of tourist revenue local towns missed out on during the shutdown. One mayor said their town had lost 40-60% of its business during the park closures. After engaging in discussions to reopen the parks during the shutdown, Utah Governor Herbert decided to staff it with volunteers and pay for the employees out of the State budget until the government reopened to help the communities suffering directly. Utah is paying over $1.5 million to keep them open for a week, which the article says will likely be reimbursed by Congress.

While this article is written about Utah there were several other states that were affected as well. The government shutdown, while now over, had serious repercussions and irreparable losses were made in some towns. Residents that depend on the revenues and Environmentalist groups are disappointed by what happened to the Forests, Parks, and Monuments during the crisis period because while they are a huge source of revenue they are also Wild lands that needed to be taken care of and thought of as more than money makers. Many of these parks bring in valuable resources and revenue to towns for other aspects of their government, like schooling and healthcare in the states. The Federal government did not factor these costs of living when they shut down, and now states are left to pick up the pieces.

Colorado Cities Fight Frackers

by Shana Kessler

Widener University Environmental Politics and Policy Student

Colorado cities are fighting frackers. Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette are giving voters the chance to declare a timeout – and in one case even ban new drilling and industry-waste disposal. Colorado has been a battle zone for hashing out the national problem of domestic energy production with an environmentally sustainable future. Interestingly enough, it is companies who are advocating for the banning or prevention of fracking – and they have cited health and environmental concerns as driving forces. People are upset that the state appears to care more about the industry than the citizens, and the local economy of many Colorado cities is dependent on the outdoor settings, clean air, and nature-made tourist attractions.

Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules are complex enough, designed to facilitate drilling while protecting the environment. Yet spills occur at a rate of about one per day, and state authorities have yet to complete a human-health or environmental study of impacts. What will the state of Colorado then do? The economic benefits of drilling are huge, and Governor John Hickenlooper is a steady supporter – go figure. Lawsuits have been filed, state v. city, and little progress seems to be made.

Opponents of fracking have raised about $16,000 as they fight for votes in those four cities, and that’s not bad for a grassroots effort. But it pales in comparison to the fundraising done by the pro-fracking sector – which amounts to about $606,205, 99.7% of which came from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The campaign’s adviser, former Rep. B.J. Nikkel said she would love to see them beat every ballot initiative as they are bad for cities. Tell that to residents of a state where recent floods spread more than 60,000 gallons of petrochemical-laced fluids from fracking operations into yards, parks, and rivers.

Parents in Philly Fed Up with Public Education

By Zeynep Ozdener

Recently Philadelphia has been under national scrutiny. Unfortunately, this white hot spotlight has centered around the education policies of the state of Pennsylvania. As public funding for education decreases, public schools in Philadelphia are suffering.

In light of these budget cuts, many Philadelphian parents have taken to writing complaint letters to Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education. In fact, over 250 such letters have been sent in just the last week, and another 100 are expected to be formally filed within the next seven days. While around 43 percent of public education funding usually comes from the state nationwide, in Pennsylvania, it is only around 35 percent.

Overall, Pennsylvania is tenth on the list of least state-funded schools in America. This has caused a shortage of necessary school guidance counselors, arts programs, and even language programs for immigrant students. Indeed, over 3,000 public school employees were let go before the 2013-2014 school year began.

In my opinion, parents have every right to be outraged, and it is a solid, if small, first step that they are complaining to the proper authorities. However, as far as options go, Pennsylvania does not have many. In order to add almost 50 extra million dollars to the public education budget, the City Council has just today approved of a plan to purchase vacant properties from Philadelphia’s school district. However, Mayor Nutter has expressed disapproval, stating that the idea has many failings.

Whether or not he is actually right (Lord knows he has been wrong about many things in the past), $50 million has been allocated to the public school system, and already some of the laid-off employees have been re-employed. Hopefully, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania as a whole will be able to crawl out of this education-funding rut they have recently been in.