By Staff and Joseph McGrath of PowerShift, NY On Friday April 16, 2010, about 75 citizens convened at the University at Buffalo's North Campus to protest U.S. Energy Development Corporation's proposal to drill for oil and natural gas in the Allegany State Park and Allegheny National Forest. Allegheny Defense Project staff and supporters joined the group that marched to U.S. Energy Offices at 2350 N Forest Road in Amherst, NY, on the edge of the UB campus.
The rally and march kicked off the Power Shift NY weekend event (April 16-18) organized by the UB Environmental Network. Power Shift New York was a conference held for area green businesses, environmental groups, and students on the University at Buffalo campus. The direct action in Amherst was the first event of the conference and was meant to set an example of meaningful action on a local New York environmental issue.
The demonstration against U.S. Energy's drilling plans was held at the intersection of North Forest Rd. and Millersport Hwy. in Amherst which was in direct view of the corporate headquarters of U.S. Energy Development Offices. Protestors showed signs to passing traffic and told stories of the company’s drilling history in Pennsylvania’s only National Forest, which adjoins the NY Allegany State Park.
In July of 2009 the DEP “issued a cease and desist order to U.S. Energy Development Corp. of Getzville, N.Y., for persistent and repeated violations of environmental laws and regulations.” and fined them $200,000.
“If anyone is skeptical about how real the threat is to Allegany State Park, just walk Black Snake Mountain trail in the Quaker area of the park. A portion of the trail runs parallel to the Pennsylvania state line, and literally about 15 feet from the trail sits a U.S. Energy oil well. It’s pretty startling to see it so close, and so real. They made it a point to get as close to the state line as possible, it’s almost like a slap in the face,” stated Power Shift New York member Jason Mazurowski of Tonawanda, on U.S. Energy’s proposed oil and gas drilling on the state park.
The UB Environmental Network drafted a petition in opposition to the proposed oil drilling operations in the Allegany State Park and attempted to deliver it to the U.S. Energy offices, but U.S. Energy refused to accept the petition.
The Allegheny Defense Project and and Power Shift New York cite numerous reasons why the drilling should be discontinued including the rareness of untouched natural ecosystems, National Audubon’s identification of the Allegheny National Forest and the adjoining Allegany State Park as an Important Bird Area (IBA), as well as the decline of public recreation and enjoyment of the park, that drilling will bring.
The petition calls for the company to halt its operations in the park because of its history of environmental mismanagement. “Regardless of individual environmental or political ideologies, we believe that what you intend to do in Allegany State Park is immoral and inappropriate given your history of environmental neglect during previous operations in Pennsylvania. We cannot entrust this unique place full of nostalgia and irreplaceable beauty to a company that does not recognize its true value.”
The Power Shift New York Summit at the University of Buffalo featured several prominent speakers including Lois Gibbs who is an activist who helped expose the Love Canal crisis in 1978, Walter Simpson the founder of UB Green who saved the University 60 million dollars in energy costs and Margaret Wooster the author of Living Waters and director of the Buffalo Niagara River Keepers organization. The conference was organized to serve as a catalyst to help students and environmental organizations network in order to become a more organized force for change throughout the state.