December 26, 2014

Fracking Ban in New York: What’s Good for Us is Not Always Popular.


Last week it was announced that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will ban fracking in the state of New York.

This is a huge win for the environmentalists and for the anti-fracking movement nationwide. It is equally guaranteed to create a firestorm here in New York against the governor who is extremely unpopular in much of the state. Largely for his use of executive action. Sound familiar?

He remains unpopular Upstate for pushing through a gun control law known as the SAFE Act in a middle of the night state session. It was expected to die in committee in the bogged down Assembly. He also has a reputation for being willing to take on big business and challenge Wall Street banks that feel they can do whatever they wish in the city and state of New York. This is why he is unpopular and also why I voted for him.


This map shows the problem in simple blue and red. Governor Cuomo won reelection by winning the blue counties. They are all urban dominated counties. All of the suburban and rural counties, except for two, he lost by a large margin. By concentrating on the cities he is portrayed as not being fairly elected. This has led to the feeling that he pays no attention to what the people in these counties want.

I live within three miles of the Pennsylvania state line. Fracking has been going on for years. So has the controversy. New York has maintained a moratorium on drilling to study the issue. Gas companies have paid a lot of money to land owners for drilling rights. New Yorkers want their share. Economic boom versus poisoned groundwater. The debates get heated and ugly. Both sides claim science backs them up.

The anti-fracking group of which I am a member, is worried about the long term effects. We have been gifted with an abundance of fresh water across the state. From the Great Lakes to the Finger Lakes and multitudes of smaller lakes and rivers, people and animals benefit from their availability. We almost lost them.

Growing up I saw the lakes in the Adirondacks including Lake Placid become unusable from acid rain. The Hudson river was contaminated by PCBs for decades and all fish were considered toxic. Without clean water everything begins to crumble. People get sick, agriculture and tourism dwindle. The damage spreads rapidly. A great deal of effort and money has gone into restoring our water. Myself and others believe that it is better to prevent the damage now than to risk it and have to clean it up later.

Governor Cuomo did not give an opinion on fracking before the election. He stated that he would allow the scientists to report their findings and he would follow their advice. The Department of Environmental Conservation spoke today. Commissioner Joseph Martens reported,

“The potential health and environmental impacts were too great to permit fracking and that the economic benefits of allowing it are far lower than originally predicted.”

Governor Cuomo sided with the report.

“I think it’s our responsibility to develop an alternative … for safe, clean economic development.”

In my rural county this will not go well. We still have placards on lawns calling for the repeal of the SAFE Act and for Cuomo’s impeachment. Albany is considered high handed and the governor’s office little better than dictators. Again, Sound familiar?  People complain, “He should let the people decide and put it up for a vote.” “Let us decide for ourselves.” Periodically the Tea Party organizes “the shot” across the state. This is where everyone should go outside at noon on that day and fire their guns in the air letting Albany know their displeasure. So far Governor Cuomo has not backed down.

Fine with me. Finally someone is standing up to the oil companies. In this case, what we do can very much affect our neighbors’ lives. Maybe this will give other groups in other states some momentum to help in their struggles to help people and the environment. The stakes are very real. As a child I had to take medicine I didn’t like in order to get better. As an adult sometimes we have to as well.



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Author: Paul Semo

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wikipedia, Wikipedia

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