Lifting the Natural Gas Curtain
What’s happening in New York State causes Bob Tiberio to reflect on the position of Commissioners Martens and Shah, who are struggling to put up a good front while their boss, Governor Andrew Cuomo, does the political dance.
You have to feel sorry for DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. He has apparently given up hinting at silver linings after repeated delays of the SGEIS release. His recent callous-sounding “not terribly concerned” comment has the ring of frustrated resignation. Certainly natural gas supporters are frustrated that every few weeks Health Commissioner Shah says it will take “a few more weeks” to complete his department’s on-going health review, which is actually its re-review.
Commissioners Martens and Shah know, of course, what the boss wants and are giving it to him, however reluctantly. Indeed, if Joe Martens really is unconcerned, he may be the only person in the state who is. So, maybe he knows something the rest of us don’t, but needs — out of political necessity — to disguise what is really a positive signal. Regardless, the game of trying to decode what is meant by what is said is getting tiresome.
And, the continuing talk about waiting for “the science” is getting less credible by the day. Is the science that’s good enough for the EPA and several other shale states — even Germany — not good enough for New York? Our governor appears simply unwilling to reveal his intentions, and Martens patience with this is certainly not appreciated, though it is, perhaps understandable.
New York’s natural gas supporters have been patient, too, but we are not prepared to wait forever. Simply put, the Southern Tier is not going to survive without natural gas development. We are not willing to sit back and let our future be denied to us, as if some immovable natural gas curtain had descended between Pennsylvania and New York to remain there forever.
Governor Cuomo seems more interested in political fence-riding as long as possible than securing the enormous economic benefits of shale gas development for countless thousands of his constituents who desperately need them. He likes that curtain, apparently.
Southern Tier counties have suffered severe population and job loss in recent decades as people flee over the border to find economic opportunity that New York’s repressive business climate can’t provide. Those left behind are made fearful, pessimistic and resistant to change by constant propaganda from alarmists warning of environmental devastation that simply hasn’t materialized in areas where shale gas is actually being produced.
A depressing number of New York’s ex-patriots are educated young people. This debilitating brain drain is an ironic tragedy for a state with so many great educational institutions. Every year we graduate thousands of talented scientists and engineers who must defect to other states to find employment. New York’s economic relevance will continue to erode if our leaders patronize utopian dreams of perfection, kowtowing to baseless fears while resisting real hope for prosperity and energy independence.
New York’s decline is not predestined. Shale gas development could safely fuel an economic revival in the Southern Tier, something that is already happening in the “free” shale gas states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and numerous other states. Illinois successfully developed shale gas regulations in only months thanks to cooperation among state regulators, the gas industry and environmental groups (although a not insurmountable special interest addition at the 11th hour has delayed their passage). But New York’s current five-year plan appears to be only one word: delay.
It’s been clear for some time that the pillars of anti-gas orthodoxy are crumbling. The myths of Gasland were exposed by Fracknation, as well as credible scientific voices who are not driven by alarmist agendas. The EPA gave Dimock’s water a clean bill of health. Speculation that natural gas produces more greenhouse emissions than coal was discredited by virtual consensus, and the recent EPA finding that natural gas emissions are 66 percent lower than previous estimates. Clean natural gas development meets the high bar of safety and environmental responsibility.
President Kennedy went to West Berlin at the height of the Cold War in 1963 and said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Andrew Cuomo should now come to the Southern Tier and declare, “I am an upstater.” Those words would send a clear signal that he will soon lift the natural gas curtain that has descended along our southern border. It’s time for New York to end its self-inflicted isolation and consign the bankrupt anti-growth ideology to the trash bin where it belongs.