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Monday, April 28, 2014

Anti-fracking activist wins world’s largest environmental prize

The Goldman prize was established in 1989 and “recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk,” according to its website. It is given to those who create change in their communities.

"ALBANY—The world's largest environmental prize has been awarded to an Ithaca-based lawyer who has helped organize fracking bans in dozens of New York communities. For winning the Goldman Prize, the lawyer, Helen Slottje, will receive $150,000 award and an unprecedented level of international attention. Slottje, a despised figure among gas industry officials, has helped enact fracking bans in 172 communities across New York in the last five years. Even if the state's five-year moratorium on hydraulic hydrofracking were to be lifted tomorrow, Slottje's work could cause a major issue for energy companies here. In an interview with Capital, Slottje said she'll use the prestige and money that comes with the award to raise global awareness of her campaign. “Fracking is a symptom of a much larger problem in our society, an oligarchy, a complete separation of people making decision and those whose lives they affect,” she said. [...]

Slottje waded into the fracking battle almost by accident. She and her husband David, with whom she does much of her work, were corporate lawyers when they moved from Boston to Ithaca. She attended a community meeting where activists described the risks of fracking and was so shocked by the images and by the proliferation of leases across New York that she turned it into a call to arms. She was soon traveling the state, to town halls and demonstrations, to volunteer her legal services. Her opponents say she has turned community members against each other, and that she has encouraged outsiders to exercise influence on small towns across New York that need jobs and tax revenue. Slottje said she's done the opposite, by giving communities more of a say than multi-billion dollar energy companies. ”We're going to do whatever we think is going to help the voice of the people,” she said."