Cuomo Nears Fracking Decision in New York

Published August 3, 2012

After months of study, punctuated by a highly emotional public debate, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will soon announce his decision on whether to allow natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in the Empire State.

Deferring to Local Government

Sources within the Cuomo administration indicate the governor will allow local governments in several economically depressed counties along the state’s border with Pennsylvania to determine for themselves whether to permit natural resource production through fracking.

Even in counties where fracking may be permitted, Cuomo’s plan will reportedly preclude fracking in the vicinity of aquifers, nationally designated historic districts, and Catskill Park. 

But if fracking is subject to such difficult restrictions, and can only occur if and when local government explicitly approves it, it will create a patchwork of drill and no-drill areas that would make it difficult for companies holding drilling leases to conduct their business, energy advocates point out.

A moratorium on fracking imposed in 2010 by then-Gov. David Paterson (D) has excluded the energy-rich Southern Tier from the natural gas economic windfall that has dramatically improved the economy across the state line in Pennsylvania. 

Activist Groups Mobilize

Fearing Cuomo will lift the ban on fracking, several environmental activist groups, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Advocates of New York, issued a joint statement in June opposing natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing. 

“Until we have a complete and independent study of the impacts to public health and the environment and the cost to our communities, the state will simply not be in a position to make a decision as to whether fracking should be permitted in New York,” the groups said in the joint statement.  

New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been conducting such a study for months, and Cuomo is expected to base his decision on its assessment.

Rural Areas Support Fracking

“The future of upstate New York hangs in the balance. Natural gas development is the last hope for many struggling landowners and communities with no other opportunity for jobs,” said Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York Petroleum Council. 

“Yet it is the same old song in New York, where New York City celebrities and wealthy second-home owners dominate the political scene and fund environmental activists and junk scientists in an attempt to place a giant ‘do not disturb’ sign on rural New York. It will take real courage to stand up to them, and I hope the governor stands by his pledge to let DEC do its job and allow the science to determine the outcome, not politics,” Moreau explained.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.