New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo missed a Nov. 29 deadline to finalize long-awaited hydraulic fracturing regulations. The missed deadline left state residents uncertain whether and when they would join the current shale gas revolution that is creating jobs and wealth in nearby states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Panel Studies Health Effects
The delay occurred after Cuomo, a Democrat, appointed a three-person panel to assess the health effects of fracking on surrounding communities. The panel is not expected to complete its report until mid-February.
In a press statement accompanying his announcement of the delay, Cuomo said the state can benefit from fracking but he wants to make sure the process is environmentally safe.
“This is a big decision for the state,” said Cuomo. “It has potential economic benefits if the state goes forward with fracking, but we want to make sure it’s safe and we want to make sure the environment is protected, people are protected, and that’s why we’re doing a health assessment.”
A Tale of Two Economies
The Southern Tier of Upstate New York—stretching roughly from Buffalo to just west of Albany—is geologically similar to areas in neighboring Pennsylvania. Parts of both states sit atop the energy-rich Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.
Although Pennsylvania is in the midst of an economic boom driven by the extraction of huge quantities of natural gas, New York continues to ban fracking and the state’s Southern Tier languishes in economic stagnation. Many of the area’s counties suffer from double-digit unemployment and declining population.
Empire State Divide
Cuomo’s dithering has encouraged fracking opponents to launch a well-funded campaign against natural-gas extraction in the Southern Tier. Entertainers and actors came together to form the “Artists Against Fracking” campaign. Their ranks include Lady Gaga, Robert De Niro, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hugh Jackman, Mark Ruffalo, Mathew Broderick, Flea, and the Strokes. Hollywood film studios entered the fray Dec. 28 with the release of the anti-fracking film “Promised Land,” starring Matt Damon.
Though lacking the celebrities aligned with anti-fracking activists, fracking proponents held rallies throughout the Southern Tier and in Albany calling for an end to the moratorium.
‘Assault on Property Rights’
Karen Moreau, executive director of the NYS Petroleum Council and founder of the Foundation for Land and Liberty, explained why fracking supporters feel it is so important to lift the ban.
“It is a moral travesty that cash-starved and highly-taxed rural farmers and families are being denied jobs, [being denied] opportunity, and losing their farms and homes to foreclosure while wealth lies beneath their feet,” said Moreau.
“The wealthy elitist agitators and New York City movie stars who enjoy weekend homes in the Marcellus shale area are responsible for this assault on property rights and basic human dignity, “Moreau added.
Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D., (firstname.lastname@example.org ) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.