Real leadership in New York State would recognize the obvious, that natural gas is key to a clean energy future and the untapped gas resources in the Southern Tier could be vital to revitalizing one of the poorest parts of the state. But no, Governor Cuomo has instead chosen the path of a knee-jerk ban on hydrofracking that leaves landowners frustrated and forces New York to import gas.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently weighed in and called the hydrofracking ban “misguided”, just after he donated $30 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “To keep coal-fired power plants in upstate New York and not frack doesn’t make any sense at all,” said Bloomberg.
Current NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote in the official 2014 Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions, “Since 2005, New Yorkers have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 19%, largely through a transition to natural gas for electricity generation, and cleaner fuels for heating our buildings.”
Natural gas consumption is helping the state meet important environmental goals, improving air quality, and saving lives. Even the Obama administration has made greater use of natural gas the centerpiece of its Clean Power Plan which aims to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants 30 percent by 2030. And yet, despite the clear promise of greater use of natural gas, upstate landowners who have gas reserves are barred from contributing to the nation’s shale revolution.
New York’s Southern Tier counties sitting on top of the Marcellus shale have some of the highest unemployment in the state. And now, with a tremendous opportunity literally sitting beneath their feet, their hands have been tied by a misguided Governor held hostage by activists in Ithaca and New York City.
Of course, fracking and shale production aren’t perfect. While the common claims of widespread water contamination resulting from the fracking chemicals remain erroneous, there are local issues that must be thoughtfully addressed.
Fracking involves lots of truck traffic, new pipelines, fumes from condensate tanks and compressor stations, and occasional workplace mishaps leading to poorly constructed wells or surface spills. The gas drilling industry have been bad neighbors at times and their social license to operate has been called into question.
However, mature, responsible leadership would be seeking to understand and resolve these issues through a combination of effective regulations and technological innovation. All of these issues can be managed and most of the time the solutions that are good for the planet end up good for profits as well. For example: the use of temporary water pipelines reduces truck traffic, lowering both costs for operators and stress for neighbors.
New York could be harnessing its’ incredible engineering talent and higher education resources to enable the state to be on the forefront of environmentally sound gas extraction. But Governor Cuomo would rather reap cheap political points with the activist base by but putting forth a legally tenuous ban on hydrofracking that is unlikely to survive beyond his administration and only generates income for lawyers rather than for struggling residents of the Southern Tier.
Real leadership in New York would be to demonstrate how shale gas resources can be developed responsibly and that natural gas is part of the climate change solution by replacing dirtier fuels. New York’s fracking ban is not leadership, it is political theater that is hurting residents.
This piece ran on the Opinion page at the Binghamton Press-Connect, May 14, 2015