New York Governor to Allow But Limit Hydrofracking

According to the New York Times, Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering a plan to allow hydraulic fracturing yet limit it to those portions of New York State that are struggling financially.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering a plan to limit hydraulic fracturing to those portions of New York State that are struggling financially. Most of these counties are along the Pennsylvania border. Cuomo’s plan will limit the drilling to only those communities that support it. No doubt this “middle of the road” stance is an effort to appease both sides of the hydraulic fracturing debate.

The plan, which has yet to be finalized, currently limits drilling to the deepest areas of the Marcellus Shale formation, in an effort to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination. Obviously, Cuomo’s administration doesn’t realize that the risk to the water table is non-existent if a well bore is properly cased in cement. Not surprisingly, drilling would be banned in Catskill Park, aquifers and nationally designated historic districts.

Cuomo’s plan hinges on hydraulic fracturing getting the final “thumbs up” from state regulators, which is expected to happen later this summer. Since the announcement, the Cuomo administration has received tens of thousands of e-mails and letters – most objecting to hydrofracking.

President Obama expressed support for hydraulic fracturing in his State of the Union address earlier this year, “The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.”

Any industrial activity is going to have risks. The key is to understand and manage the risks so that the benefits far outweigh the risks. If risks are not managed properly, then there should be a moratorium on the process.
In the case of hydrofracking though, the controversy is often more about perception than reality.

Dewey Decker, a farmer in Sanford, NY sees this situation from another point of view. “A lot of people look at this as a way to save our property.” Several residents have already leased thousands of acres to a drilling company. Because the area’s dairy business has been in sharp decline, the promise of fracking has already helped some residents. A lot of people who signed got their money upfront, because they couldn’t pay their taxes and were going to lose their land.

Even some mainstream organizations realize the benefits of hydrofracking. “We recognize that gas is going to be part of our energy mix and it’s preferable to other types of fuels that are out there,” said Rob Moore, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “So it’s not really an option to say ‘no way’ to natural gas. If it’s going to happen,” he said, “we want to make sure it happens to the highest standards.”

And that is the point that needs to be made to critics and supporters alike, that problems happen in all industries when companies rush to get the job done and perform the job incorrectly. Obviously everybody wants groundwater and people to be protected. Governor Cuomo seems to be cautiously optimistic with his new plan.

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