As summer comes to an end, and children again board school buses, the season brings along its familiar and perennial classics. There is the NY State Fair, where Governor Cuomo opened festivities accompanied by a couple of hundred anti-fracking protesters. Congressional candidates hit the campaign trail, including, in the Southern Tier, Democratic challengers Dan Lamb and Nate Shinagawa, both of whom are running on explicitly anti-fracking platforms in parts of the 5-county area rumored to be the possible “trial area” for fracking in NYS— where the Governor and some local officials claim that some municipalities favor allowing hydrofracking to go forward.
However, as regards those trial balloons floated in the press earlier this summer about a possible 5-county area where hydrofracking would be allowed on a trial basis, there has been no official word. In fact, despite a number of journalists’ fevered accounts– from Fred LeBrun’s assured claim that the End of the Anti-Frack World is Near to CBS national news’ unsourced claim that Governor Cuomo had already decided to go forward with fracking and would announce that decision soon– NYS’s Executive Branch has continued, when it comes to hydrofracking, to make the sound of one hand clapping. Nada. Zip. In keeping with the season, CRICKETS. LeBrun’s bold claim on August 4—
For those desperately hoping against hope that high volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing for natural gas will be blocked from coming into New York state, sorry. For you, the end of the world arrives before Labor Day.
Of course, fracking opponents have been much more overt and on-the-record in their statements and actions, from a march through Albany attended by 1,500 or more protestors on a Monday in late August to the NY Times opinion piece by Sean Lennon, and the organizing, with his Mom Yoko Ono, of 180 celebrities into the group Artists Against Fracking. If the “one hand clapping” in opposition to fracking were any louder, the Governor might have to cover his ears to continue to remain unengaged in the controversy. Certainly, the briefness of his visit to the Democratic National Convention did not protect him from the protesters, many from within his own party, who dog him at his relatively few public appearances. And, as the opposition to fracking in NYS ages, it becomes harder and harder to typify that opposition as emanating solely from “environmentalists.” Organized opposition has come forward from groups way beyond the Sierra Club, such as Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, the local elected officials of Elected Officials to Protect New York, and medical professionals joined together to urge caution about the potential health impacts, should fracking go forward in NYS. Opposition is even coming from some professional oil and gas investors, such as Texan (and summer resident of the Cooperstown area) Chip Northrup. Particularly damaging to the hackneyed framing of the issue as “jobs vs. environment” are recent stock analyst reports that the industry is fundamentally unsound economically, such as Jonathan Verenger on “huge writedowns” in Seeking Alpha and Financial Times references to “the challenging economics of the US shale gas boom – which has seen production surge, but has sent prices plunging, and hit producers’ earnings.” DEC Commissioner Martens’ claims that NYS would go forward with fracking with a very highly regulated approach are less credible when faced with an industry that is struggling to raise needed capital to continue operations in lightly regulated states like Pennsylvania… and in the face of credible evidence that reserves have been inappropriately overvalued from such sources as the USGS.
If the whispers of Albany insiders are to be believed, this week, the buzz seems to be that it is particularly difficult for the Governor to appear to be recklessly going forward without due considerations of the impact that the industry might have on the health of NYers. While Cuomo’s oft-repeated statement that he will decide based on “the science” can implicitly favor, say, petroleum engineering science over ecological and climate-change science, it is very, very difficult to subjugate the views of the American Academy of Pediatrics to the scientific expertise of the graduates of the Colorado School of Mines. Recent expectations are that some form of a study on effects on human health are to be announced.
Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo deliberately and consistently keeps himself out of the fray and beyond reach of the controversy. Even as protestors vow to continue their resistance no matter what decision he ultimately makes, Cuomo continues to deny both sides of the controversy the public, government-backed clash that they continue to anticipate. While NYC Mayor Bloomberg tries to step into the middle of the fray, averring that both sides are wrong, and fracking is both “too important to foul up” and also too dangerous to do anywhere near the water that his constituents drink…. Governor Cuomo continues to sidestep the issue, enjoying the sweet sound of a clash in which only one hand is clapping.