New York still plagued by fracking hysteria
Abby Wisse Schachter:
New York state just announced another delay in what has become a more-than-four-year process to approve widespread natural-gas drilling. Over that time, the state has lost tens of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of business -- and the opposition to drilling has only gotten more entrenched and radical.
Gov. Cuomo should not be swayed by such hysteria.
An Oct. 6 New York Policy Forum panel on gas drilling is a case in point. At it, Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan participated in a discussion of hydro--fracking, the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock. He argued that New York doesn’t need natural gas to power its economic future.
“You can do other things ... You can save so much energy just by switching to wood pellets,” Ryan claimed. “If you combine that with retrofitting all the rural properties ... you’ll produce thousands of jobs.”
Wood pellets. What century does Ryan think this is?
Cuomo has pursued a slow and steady approach to natural-gas development. Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens issued draft drilling-permit rules in September. The industry is now assessing the draft regulations, with the public-comment period open for 90 days. Martens also announced on Oct. 25 that a procedural change would postpone permitting indefinitely.
But as soon as the draft regulations were published, green groups began complaining, and they haven’t stopped -- criticizing everything from a lack of health and flood-plain protections to insufficient waste-water disposal. Cities including Albany and Buffalo, meanwhile, have banned fracking. Opponents of gas drilling are hoping that a groundswell of opposition will sway Cuomo to reject hydrofracking.
That seems unlikely. But the obstructionists may push the administration to write such stringent regulations that large-scale drilling never materializes.
The New York Policy Forum chose panel participants to represent both sides of the hydrofracking debate: those who support extraction with proper regulation and oversight and those who have serious environmental concerns. What they got was one reasonable set of arguments and then a lot of irresponsible rhetoric.
Ryan wasn’t even the most extreme voice. Former New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Albert Appleton put it simply: “Gas fracking is the mortal enemy of green energy.”
What Big Green really fears is that with cheap clean burning natural gas they will not be able to push less efficient more costly alternative fuels on the public and they will not be able to institute their control freak agenda on the economy. That is their mortal fear. All the other hysteria about fracking really goes back to that fear while they try to stoke artificial fear of the process. It is a process that has been safely used in thousands of wells for decades. These opponents are trying to mislead the public about the safety of the process.Mortal enemy? Natural gas is a green energy. Burning cleaner and more efficiently than oil or coal, it doesn’t emit as much greenhouse gases and is cheaper. Now that we can cost effectively extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale, which sits under West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York’s Southern Tier, it is plentiful. So plentiful, in fact, that the federal government estimates that natural gas could provide all of the nation’s energy needs for more than 100 years -- maybe more.