Appalachian Basin

Lift the Natural Gas Ban and Get NY Out of the Twilight Zone

Letter also available on PressConnects

Bob Tiberio describes the “Twilight Zone” New York has become thanks to political fear, as neighboring Pennsylvania experiences economic progress thanks to natural gas development.

In our sometimes forgotten part of New York, populations are shrinking, jobs disappear and debt increases. Too many Main Streets are lined with the ghostly shells of businesses long departed. Soon, these places will come alive again thanks to the natural resource beneath our feet. But for now, the Southern Tier is lost in a twilight zone, trapped between the promise of natural gas and the politics of fear.

There’s a new optimism in our “valley of opportunity,” because the natural gas industry has kept its promise of revival for depressed communities. In Pennsylvania, shale gas revenue has boosted employment and helped fill the coffers of struggling towns and counties. Williamsport’s economic growth now dwarfs that of comparably sized Ithaca. Bradford and Susquehanna counties thrive, while Broome and Tioga struggle.

Residents pay heavy property taxes to support state mandates. And with gas leasing on indefinite hold, many farmers are on the brink of bankruptcy, while gas industry jobs for unemployed workers are held hostage by politics. Some families can’t afford to stay. No one can plan. Uncertainty threatens everyone’s economic future. We are in suspended animation, twisting in the political winds.

New York’s leaders  have always striven for prosperity. When the Great Depression saw excessive fear cripple the country, President (and former New York governor) Franklin D. Roosevelt courageously introduced new and unfamiliar solutions. Knowing recovery was imperative, he moved us ahead with determination, inspiring and reassuring a worried nation. Now as then, fear itself must not prevent needed change.

Yet opponents still raise the specter of a fouled environment. But their scary speculation is without substance, reflecting only the wishful thinking of extremists who hate big business and peddle fantasies of risk-free energy. The misleading and discredited film “Gasland” documents Hollywood’s ignorance of modern natural gas development. And naive celebrities parrot old narratives that don’t acknowledge this critical fact: inexpensive natural gas is the cleanest viable energy source we have.

Natural gas jobs and natural beauty do go together, but resistance to change shackles our economy and our spirits. Only Gov. Andrew Cuomo can free all of New York’s communities. Home rule isn’t always wise rule. Emotional rule never is.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has all the regulatory tools needed to ensure public health and safety. They have thoroughly examined industry safe practices in Pennsylvania — New York’s obvious “demonstration area” — and designed very tough environmental safeguards. The proposed SGEIS maps the safe route to our buried treasure.

New York can now move forward with confidence in a prosperous future fueled by natural gas, but only honest information and strong leadership can dispel the phantoms that demonize the one industry that stands ready to revive us. Additional delay will only sacrifice more jobs and drive away more of our young people. Cuomo must lift this paralyzing political fog and end our marathon in the twilight zone.

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