Appalachian Basin

If You Are Anti-Gas, You Are Pro-Poverty in New York

I have good news and bad news. First, the good news: the elected representatives of Painted Post (population 1,847) recently agreed to sell water for an astounding $4 million per year to a natural gas company in Pennsylvania. The money will enable them to upgrade their aging water system, among other things. The Wellsboro and Corning Railroad has leased the long-vacated Ingersoll Rand Foundry from the village and agreed to build the needed infrastructure to ship the water.

The bad news? Local anti-gas organizations are fanatically opposed to hydraulic fracturing, to economic development, and apparently to even the potential for prosperity. Which brings us to the environmental lobbying goliath, the Sierra Club, which of course is based in California.

The Sierra Club, along with two local anti-gas organizations and five local plaintiffs, have filed suit to stop the water sale. Their stated reasons: the trains are noisy, and the engines might pollute the air and water. Bowing to extremism, a state Supreme Court judge has halted the project — another victim, if only temporary, of New York’s bizarre politics.

Like many upstate communities, Painted Post is dying, a victim of government policies that destroy business and jobs. They’re losing population and leaving an older, poorer tax base behind. So, recognizing these facts as an opportunity to flex its muscles, the Sierra Club comes to town and tries to bully Painted Post.

Anti-gas activists can’t be allowed to just say no to the energy revolution that is creating prosperity everywhere gas drilling is permitted. They must offer an alternative, their only plan is an ideological thought experiment: a fossil fuel-free New York by 2030. All we have to do, of course, is build 4,020 onshore wind turbines, 12,770 offshore wind turbines and five million rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems statewide. The price tag? More than $380 billion, most of which would come from New York taxpayers. Yeah, that’ll do it.

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It’s a plan tailor-made for those who choose not to think in terms of reality: force everyone to buy expensive energy (wind and solar) while squashing the development of affordable energy (natural gas and oil) and all the jobs that would come with it. Even with massive taxpayer subsidies, rooftop PV systems are still incredibly expensive and take many years to pay for themselves. That, not “political roadblocks,” is why they don’t sell.

It’s not that renewables are a bad idea. Few people are actually opposed to renewable power. But they just don’t make economic sense in most cases — unless taxpayers are forced to pay the bill, which is hardly a sustainable proposition.  It would make a lot more sense to develop natural gas now and add renewables bit by bit as they become economically viable with the savings from natural gas. This is even what experts and the renewable energy industry itself believe to be the best path forward.

Right now, we need jobs and growth, not sunshine fantasies or windy dreams. The economies of Ohio and Pennsylvania are booming because of gas drilling, and providing real jobs today; that could be us, and it should be us.

Painted Post is a microcosm of the fracking debate: prosperity versus poverty; jobs versus unemployment; affordable, accessible energy versus a fantasy. The unemployment numbers speak for themselves:

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That a California-based organization would try to come to New York, deny local men and women jobs, and tell them that their taxes need to go way up just so the Club can add another notch to its belt is something that my fellow New Yorkers should not stand for.

They’re on a search and destroy mission. Find commerce – stop it. Find job opportunities – hamstring them. Find hope – squash that, too. Let’s just hope they haven’t already succeeded.



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