News Column

Flash Mob Protests Lopez Vote

March 12, 2013

Joe Mahoney

Some 30 activists opposed to hydraulic fracturing staged a "flash mob" demonstration Monday at the office of Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, criticizing him for opposing legislation that would have extended the moratorium on drilling for two years.

Robert Nied, the director of the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, accused Lopez of "ignoring the strong concerns of a good portion of the citizens in his district."

"He's just not listening," Nied said. "We wanted to turn up the volume a little and get him to understand that this is a very important issue for a lot of us."

The Assembly, controlled by Democrats, voted last week to put a freeze on hydrofracking permits until May 15, 2015. A similar measure is pending in the state Senate, but appears to face an uphill climb. Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested Monday the Senate measure is doomed.

Lopez was one of 40 Assembly measures who voted against the legislation in the lower house. The bill carried easily, with 103 Assembly members on board.

Lopez said that he opposed the Assembly bill because it was an "overreach" and "more aggressive" than similar legislation he backed in 2010. The new bill, he said, would have restricted all gas drilling, not just the controversial high volume hydraulic fracturing method that environmentalists are trying to stop.

Lopez said he remains supportive of developing renewable energy, energy conservation initiatives and other steps that will make the nation less reliant on "global energy cartels and giant utilities."

The assemblyman was in Albany while the protest was held outside his regional office.

Nied also criticized Lopez for not taking a definite stand on the proposed Constitution Pipeline, a $750 million natural gas transmission system that some environmentalists claim will attract hydraulic fracturing in communities it would traverse.

"If he doesn't deal with it, people are going to be looking for someone else in that position of leadership," he said.

Lopez has recommended that the pipeline be placed along the Interstate 88 corridor to minimize the potential impact on local landowners.

Lopez has proven to be a popular incumbent. Despite a realignment of his district lines, he handily defeated Democratic challenger James Miller, a former Albany police officer, last November.

Source: (c)2013 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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