New York Towns Consider Secession Over Governor’s Fracking Ban

Published April 3, 2015

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban hydraulic fracturing in New York has driven residents in 15 small towns in the state’s southern tier to consider leaving New York to become part of Pennsylvania.

The Upstate New York Towns Association has indicated the towns threatening secession are in Broome, Delaware, Tioga, and Sullivan counties, though it is not revealing their names at present.

Long History of Problems

Lee Lane, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, says New York’s state government has a long history of driving towns to the brink of secession.

“In early 1788, Albany’s delay in ratifying the U.S. Constitution nearly drove New York City to secede from the state. Today, Albany’s continuing ban on fracking is driving the southern-tier towns toward the same step. Now, just as in 1788, the state government’s resistance to needed change is the root of the problem,” said Lee.

“Quite a few recent studies confirm that, in the communities where drilling takes place, its benefits substantially outweigh its costs. And the whole country gains from cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy supplies. Fracking bans make no economic sense,” Lee said.

“The state is wrong, too, to violate the property rights of its citizens. In effect, the ban on fracking expropriates the mineral rights of the citizens of the southern tier,” Lee said. “If Albany wants to ban fracking, it should compensate mineral rights owners for the full value of the property that it is rendering worthless. If, as one suspects, Albany’s politicos are unwilling to do that, then they should at least have the decency not to impede the southern tier towns’ efforts to find a milieu where the rights of private property are better respected and enterprise is freer.”

‘Anti-Energy Ideology’

Daniel Simmons, vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, says New York’s state government is trampling on landowner’s property rights by not allowing hydraulic fracturing.

“The property rights and economic welfare of the people in southern New York do not matter to Gov. Cuomo. Instead of basing their decision on science and the experience of Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Texas, New York based their decision on an anti-energy ideology,” said Simmons.

Rural Landowners Harmed

John Eick, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force, says such land-use restrictions trap landowners in the state while reducing the value of their property.

“What’s nice about the so-called laboratories of democracy is that citizens can vote with their feet. If tax rates are too high or regulations prove to be too burdensome in a given state, people can relatively easily move to a different state with a government more to their liking,” Eick said.

“Unfortunately, mineral rights can’t be transported across state boundaries. It’s unfortunate that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state will prevent cheap energy from being produced and rural landowners who could use the extra money from benefiting financially,” Eick said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.