Live From New York…

Jobs, affordable energy and robust economic development – that’s what New York will be leaving on the table if Governor Paterson signs symbolic legislation into law that would effectively ban the basic technologies needed to deliver clean-burning natural gas resources to the folks who need them. That’s our position on the matter – and it’s also the position of New York state assemblyman Michael Benjamin, Democrat from the Bronx.

In a letter he sent this week to the governor, Asm. Benjamin makes reference to the growing economic development and jobs being created just across the border in Pennsylvania.

New York could also benefit by taking a page from Pennsylvania’s book when it comes finding a revenue stream to hire additional inspectors and regulators to oversee Marcellus development. In Pennsylvania, the natural gas industry worked with the state Department of Environmental Protection and proactively agreed to increase permitting fees from $100 to about $4,000 per well so that additional inspectors and engineers could be hired, at no expense to the taxpayer, to regulate all aspects of the industry.

Hats off to Assemblyman Benjamin for standing up at an important time to serve as the voice of reason in a debate that’s often lacked facts and basic civility. Here’s to hoping the governor sees the many benefits of responsible production and heeds the advice laid out in the letter below.

November 30, 2010

Governor David Paterson
Executive Chamber
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Paterson:

I strongly urge you to veto A.11433-B/S.8129-B, which would suspend hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of natural gas or oil until May 15, 2011.  This bill is flawed because it is overbroad and will cause an unnecessary halt to gas exploration in Western NY and areas outside the Marcellus Shale.  I am opposed to a moratorium on hydrofracking in New York.  I believe that natural gas exploration will provide our State with desperately needed jobs in these tough economic times.  To arbitrarily suspend drilling without any evidence of danger to our water supply would not be in the best interest of our economy.  I believe that New York’s current regulations, along with pending DEC rule changes, are sufficient to protect New York’s natural resources and to prudently dispose of wastewater.

In addition to the state DEC and EPA reviews already underway, there is a de facto moratorium on natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale because funding for 29 additional DEC inspectors was not included in the FY 2010-2011 state budget.  Without the added inspectors, no new permits can be issued for expanded natural gas exploration in the Southern Tier, which makes this legislation redundant.  In addition, recent budget cuts have decimated DEC and will slow the permitting process for new and existing wells.

If passed, these bills will act as an unnecessary deterrent to New York’s ability to keep and create jobs, and provide cheaper natural gas to our residents.  Today, I received an email from Mr. John Holko, President of Lenape Resources, Inc., who informed me that a blanket moratorium on natural gas exploration will force his company to close. Mr. Holko’s assertion supports a study by the American Petroleum Institute that found in 2009 alone, natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale yielded 57,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  It also found that New York’s reluctance to exploit the Marcellus Shale has already resulted in $11 billion in lost economic output. This figure is staggering considering our current fiscal situation.

Instead of passing legislative impediments, we should allow the DEC to continue to revise regulations for exploration in the Marcellus Shale area.  Once the DEC’s review is released, we will have a greater understanding of the impact of hydraulic fracturing on the quality of the local water supply and the surrounding environment.  Until then, I recommend that we avoid a rash and unnecessary moratorium that will undoubtedly impact this important economic opportunity.  Instead, we should protect our future by becoming less dependent on foreign sources of energy, while we continue to develop alternative energy sources in America.  And New York can be a leader in the safe extraction of natural gas.

For the aforementioned reasons, I strongly urge you to veto A.11433-B/S.8129-B.


Michael Benjamin
Member of Assembly

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