Appalachian Basin

Breathing in the Irony in New York City

Mayor Bloomberg of New York City made an incredible announcement late last week: The Big Apple now has some of the cleanest air in the country, thanks to its increased use of natural gas. But this great news comes with a big bite of irony for the activist crowd in New York City.

The loudest opposition to development in the state tends to come out of New York City. The many tours taken by its residents and elected officials—including last year’s visit from Yoko Ono and company—helps to demonstrate just how true this statement is. It’s also the headquarters for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and has offices for many other environmental groups who, like the NRDC, claim natural gas is harmful to public health.

Yet those very same individuals condemning Pennsylvanians and our government for allowing what they might deem devastation (but which is actually high paying jobs, health insurance, charitable giving in communities, new farm equipment, and increased tax revenue) are the ones now benefiting from the best air in a half century.

Many if not most of the activists who have gone on these activist tours to see the beauty and clean air that defines rural Pennsylvania would have also likely lived or worked in NYC from 2005 to 2007, when taking a big whiff of NYC air could have dire consequences. From the press release (emphasis added):

In 2005-2007, it’s estimated that PM2.5 levels in New York City contributed to over 3,100 deaths, over 2,000 hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and 6,000 emergency department visits for asthma annually.

From the New York Times:

Three years ago, the mayor said, the 10,000 buildings — 1 percent of city buildings — that burned the two most polluting kinds of heating oil put more soot into the air than all the cars and trucks on the city’s streets and highways.

Since then, more than 2,700 of those buildings have converted to cleaner fuels, the city said, and an additional 2,500 buildings are pursuing conversions. Under regulations issued in 2011, use of the dirtier heating oils will become illegal in 2030.

Chief among those cleaner fuels? Natural gas, often sourced from the Marcellus Shale and even from the very same communities people travel hours to tour with the hope they can stop development. This is the same Marcellus gas that activists have claimed for years poses a risk to public health, even as those same activists reap the tangible health benefits that gas has brought:

Today, because of the significant improvements in air quality, the health department estimates that 800 lives will be saved each year and approximately 1,600 emergency department visits for asthma and 460 hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular issues will be prevented every year. The City expects further improvements in air quality and the future health of all New Yorkers as buildings continue to convert to cleaner fuels over the next several years.


Natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is improving the health and wellbeing of residents of New York City. This is also what’s been documented in numerous studies. Simply put, the negative health impacts that activists claim to be occurring have been exaggerated or are at times down right false.

Governor Cuomo has said that his decision on potentially lifting a now five-year delay on Marcellus Shale development in New York will be based on science and will be protective of public health. The question is, what will he do with this information?


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