Appalachian Basin

Natural Gas Will Give New York Needed Boost

NOTE: Originally appeared in the Albany Times Union

Dave Parker takes a look at whether New Yorkers are better off now than they were for years ago as they wait for natural gas permitting.

A question often heard in this year’s presidential campaign is, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
The same question applies in New York. In 2008, our state’s unemployment rate sat at a healthy 4.7 percent; today that rate is 9.1 percent. A poll conducted last year by Marist College shows that 36 percent of our state’s youngest generation, our future leaders, intend to leave New York due to its high unemployment and increasingly expensive cost of living.

The poll’s lead researcher declared, “New Yorkers are feeling the financial squeeze on the home front. Right now, many young people do not see their future in New York state; unchecked, this threatens to drain the state of the next generation.”

Our state is in a transitional moment where our elected leaders’ decisions will either enable it to flourish or continue to flounder in the economic stagnation that has defined our economy for the better part of a decade.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo certainly understands this dynamic. This is evident in his “New, New York” campaign, which seeks to draw new enterprise to the state.

Cuomo proudly claims that, “Creating jobs and welcoming business are both critical to our future. New York state is open for business.”  Yet in the same breath that the governor offers these words, he continues to keep the door firmly shut to natural gas development, which holds great promise in re-invigorating upstate New York’s economy.

Legislators and other state officials in Albany have spent over four years studying and analyzing hydraulic fracturing, resulting in a draft proposal that represents perhaps the most stringent regulatory program for oil and gas development ever compiled in the United States.

These regulations would go well beyond what’s required by most states and the federal government in developing natural gas resources. They would implement a degree of safety that exceeds the parameters that have led three presidential administrations — Clinton, Bush and Obama — and regulators in over 16 U.S. states to declare the process as safe.

The overwhelming body of evidence in support of hydraulic fracturing has even led New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a known clean energy proponent, to seek greater utilization of the technology for the affordable energy and environmental improvements it will provide.

Armed with over 65 years of safe use, one of the strongest regulatory programs ever developed and polls indicating that New Yorkers support hydraulic fracturing more than they oppose it, Cuomo still refuses to move forward.

This dynamic is enough to make a casual observer question whether he is truly letting science determine the outcome of this debate or whether he is appeasing a small group of activists supported by financiers in Ithaca and New York City at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.

This is a question the Syracuse Post Standard acknowledged earlier this month, when its editorial board asked: “At what point does the state’s cautious, measured approach become a stall?”

Many observers, especially those in the political mainstream, are waiting to see if the governor is so easily influenced by a politically important minority that he is willing to forgo an entire industry that will benefit large swaths of New York and its neediest residents. While national politicians have a knack for pandering, very few have turned down the levels of economic activity that hydraulic fracturing is expected to provide.

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