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By James Hufnagel

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo is serious about running for president five years from now, as many believe he is, you would think he'd try to avoid stirring up international controversies years ahead of time.

However, that's exactly what he's done -- as our major trade partner, neighbor, ally and close friend Canada is becoming increasingly alarmed over Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster's Water Board's proposal to import millions of gallons of toxic frack wastewater from natural gas drilling and, after what experts agree would be a totally inadequate treatment process, dump it into the Niagara River.

Soon after the Cuomo/Dyster/Water Board fracking scheme was first exposed in the July 26 issue of this newspaper, major media outlets such as WGRZ-TV, the Buffalo News, the Associated Press, Forbes, the Toronto Star and the Canadian Broadcast Network (CBC) picked up the story, and after the initial shock over the sheer recklessness and stupidity of the plan subsided, a growing backlash against fracking -- or "fracklash," if you will -- has been building on both sides of the border.

The Council of Canadians, a prestigious public advocacy group that has 12 chapters and tens of thousands of members in and around the Great Lakes, and has served as adviser to the United Nations, sent a Sept. 22 letter to Water Board commissioners Ted Janese, Thomas Vitello, Nicholas Marchellos, Peter Sinclair and Michael McNally, which stated the following:

"The treatment of fracking fluids in Niagara Falls' wastewater treatment system would put the Niagara River as well as the Great Lakes at risk as it is one integrated watershed. The Great Lakes, specifically, and water, in general, are part of the global commons (a shared entity) and are a public trust. ... The Great Lakes hold nearly 20 percent of the world's freshwater and 95 percent of North America's freshwater. They provide drinking water to 40 million people in surrounding areas. Last year the U.N. passed two resolutions recognizing water as a human right and this proposal to treat fracking fluids threatens people's human right to safe and clean drinking water."

The letter goes on to criticize NFWB Executive Director Paul Drof, who shrugs his shoulders and passes the buck to the state Department of Environmental Conservation when it comes to setting limits on the amounts of the 750 fracking additives -- dozens of which are known carcinogens -- and radioactive substances flushed up from deep rock layers that may be blended into our drinking water supply.

Included is a reference to certain other folks who, to put it mildly, probably won't be jumping on the "Cuomo for President" bandwagon when the time comes:

"We also remind you that the Great Lakes lie on the traditional lands of many First Nations and American Indian Tribes who have a right to participate in making decisions that would affect their water supply. Under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, governments are obligated to obtain free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources.

"Given the significant risk posed to the Great Lakes by this proposal, we ask that you scrap it in order to protect the Great Lakes Basin for current and future generations."

Dozens of citizens, led by Niagara Falls Block Club President Roger Spurback and Western New York Drilling Defense Director Rita Yelda, attended the Sept. 22, 2010, Water Board meeting at its Buffalo Avenue headquarters to express their concerns for the future of our drinking water, not to mention the world-famous Niagara Falls, the downstream tourist attraction that draws over eight million visitors every year. Imagine the impact on our tourism industry should some future scientist study the mist coming off the falls and determine that it's laden with frack chemicals and radioactivity.

The crucial Water Board meeting made the front page of the Buffalo News the next day, but the Niagara Gazette was, as usual, missing in action. In fact, it's been silent on this issue of international import, an issue that has enormous economic and environmental implications for Niagara County -- except for Don Glynn's May 7 column that discussed, of all things, the Buffalo Catholic Diocese's official stance on fracking. Colorless and easily digested, like most of his columns, it generally was supportive of fracking, noteing that "it will be interesting to see how the state lawmakers address this issue."

As previously revealed here, Dyster's Water Board is paying $4,000 a month -- money collected from the exorbitant water bills to which the citizens of Niagara Falls are subjected -- to public relations firm E3 Communications Inc. of Buffalo and Albany, to persuade us to welcome Cuomo's frackwater. Don Glynn and the Niagara Gazette are also on the Water Board's public relations payroll, it's been rumored.

A Sept. 15, 2011, letter to Cuomo from 59 scientists, several of whom serve on the National Academy of Sciences, stated, "We urge the state to reconsider its position that existing water filtration systems provide adequate protection against the risk of hydraulic fracturing."

An Oct. 11, 2011, letter to Cuomo from 250 physicians protesting his stance on fracking stated, "We are greatly concerned about the omission of a critical issue related to the development of natural gas using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking': human health impacts."

Of four hearings to be held across New York state for public comment on the fracking issue, the nearest is on Nov. 11 at Dansville, 95 miles southeast of Niagara Falls, a distant location supposedly chosen because it is central to the Marcellus Shale region, but actually because Cuomo is not interested in hearing from the Buffalo and Niagara County communities that will be most impacted by fracking.

The regular monthly meeting of the Niagara Falls Water Board will take place at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at the treatment plant, 5815 Buffalo Ave. The public is invited to comment.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct. 18, 2011