Appalachian Basin

Gas Exploration Will Bring Jobs To NY

Michael Benjamin
Former Member of the NY State Assembly

When the New York State Legislature passed the hydraulic fracturing moratorium bill late last year, I drew a lot of flack for urging then-Governor David Paterson to veto the measure. Supporters of the moratorium raised the ghastly specter of contaminated water supplies and went as far as supporting a ban on all natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale and well beyond.

Paterson vetoed the measure but then issued an executive order instituting a moratorium on gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. It was a head-scratching decision because drilling could not be permitted because the environmental regulations had yet to be drafted.

Because of my outspoken opposition to the hydraulic fracturing moratorium, I was invited, along with John Holko, president of Lenape Resources, onto a NY1 News debate with actor Mark Ruffalo and Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox. It was an enlightening experience fending off both men’s wild accusations about the perils of “fracking.”

Since leaving office last year, I have written op-ed essays and appeared on the radio extolling the benefits of natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale. The NY Post published my op-ed, Phony Fears on Fracking, where I refuted the hysteria about the threat allegedly posed by horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

The election of pro-business Governor Andrew Cuomo brought the opportunity for a change in state policy. When asked about his efforts to reduce state spending, keeping taxes low and reducing the state workforce, Cuomo replied, “I’m a progressive who’s broke.”

Just last month, Governor Cuomo and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) agreed that prohibiting gas exploration without any credible evidence of danger to the state’s water supply would not be in the best interest of our state’s economy. Cuomo has gone on to say that his focus over the next six months will be “jobs, jobs, jobs.” That is good news for the residents and local governments in the state’s Southern Tier.

The State DEC has reaffirmed that the New York City watershed, as well as that of other major New York cities, is off-limits to natural gas exploration. The DEC is and remains a national leader in regulations protecting New York’s environment.

The State DEC’s proposed draft regulations are evidence of its commitment to protecting the wells, aquifers, and potable water supplies of Southern Tier residents and their communities.  Since the DEC will finalize its Draft regulations by year’s end, it is imperative that the US EPA conclude its study of horizontal hydraulic fracturing technology and its effect on the environment much sooner rather than mid-2012.

I was heartened to hear EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson asserted before a Congressional panel that there is no credible evidence that horizontal hydraulic fracturing has contaminated the water supply.

Natural gas exploration is an economic necessity both for New York’s Southern Tier economy and for reducing our dependence on higher priced, out-of-state and foreign natural gas supplies. We know that over 20,000 good-paying jobs have been created just over the border in Pennsylvania and millions of dollars in taxes and fees were generated for the Pennsylvania state treasury.

The Public Policy Institute, the research arm of The Business Council of New York State, recently reported that as few as 300 natural gas wells per year in the Marcellus Shale could generate more than 37,500 annual jobs.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has invested $1 billion in New York State pension funds in companies involved in natural gas exploration. Apparently, Comptroller DiNapoli recognizes that gas exploration is a good investment and does not imperil the environment or our water quality.

Creating upwards of 37,000 good-paying jobs in upstate New York and generating millions of dollars in taxes and fees for our state treasury will reduce future deficits and ensure the success of Governor Cuomo’s approach to leaner, smarter government. Not to mention, guaranteeing state pensioners a positive return on Comptroller DiNapoli’s wise investment of public funds.

I feel vindicated in my steadfast belief that natural gas exploration will provide our State with thousands of desperately needed jobs, real property tax benefits and increased tax revenues in these tough economic times. Natural gas exploration and extraction in the Marcellus will trigger an economic multiplier effect that makes good on Cuomo’s recognition that “jobs, jobs, jobs” will lift the upstate economy.

After awhile, New York will no longer be a progressive state that’s broke. And we can thank Governor Cuomo and the Marcellus Shale for our improved fortune.


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