A Glimmer of Hope for Marcellus Drilling in New York State

Newly elected Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, will be a key figure (perhaps the key figure) in determining whether or not drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale goes forward in the state. His appointment of Joe Martens on Jan. 4 to be head of the Department of Environmental Conservation which oversees drilling was not a good sign to those who favor drilling (see MDN’s story here). But Mr. Martens seems to be signing a different tune these days.

Yesterday, Gov. Cuomo was in Binghamton, NY, appearing at an invitation-only event to discuss his proposed budget cuts. It is instructive to see how those who favor and those who oppose drilling in the Marcellus behaved while the Governor was in town.

There were about 75 people protesting the Governor’s visit from a nearby sidewalk, and among them were people carrying signs and chanting to oppose drilling:

While Cuomo got enthusiastic applause from the mostly business crowd inside the hotel, there were protest chants from social service and environmental activists across the street.

The crowd also includes a large number of gas drilling opponents. Walter Hang of Toxics Targeting says his group has been bird-dogging Cuomo since August when he was still a candidate. Hang wants the DEC regulatory process for high volume horizontal hydro-fracking in the Marcellus Shale reopened.

Walter Hang says, “The devil is in the details. And that’s how come we want this executive order scope expanded. We want public comment, we want a citizens advisory committee to make sure the DEC does it right.”(1)

[D]emonstrators held up signs, including “Stop Fracking America.” They chanted “No More Cuts.”(2)

Contrast that with this press statement from the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York:

The JLCNY welcomes Governor Cuomo and staff to Binghamton but will not be picketing and protesting over the gas issue at the event out of respect for the Governor and the issues he will be dealing with today. The JLCNY supports the Governor in his efforts to bring our New York  State budget under control. We believe that responsible drilling in New York will be a game changer for our New York economy and will be an essential element in accomplishing the Governor’s goals. We in the JLCNY are confident that the Governor and DEC Commissioner Martens will address the important issue of developing New York’s Natural Gas resources in a timely and cautious manner. We are even more confident that when they do, they will recognize that Natural Gas will be safely and responsibly developed in New York under the framework of the SGEIS and the strictest natural gas regulations in the Country. In the mean time, the JLCNY will continue to promote and foster such development, to protect the interests of landowners, and to educate all about Natural Gas development in a respectful and professional manner. (3)

This is a purely subjective observation (from someone who supports safe drilling in New York), but it seems to MDN that based on how the two sides are reacting, maybe there’s some room for hope that drilling will eventually happen in New York.

And what does the Governor say about his plans for drilling in the state?

When asked about gas drilling after his speech, Cuomo said he was waiting on a final report from the DEC to separate scientific facts from emotion.(1)

Here’s video coverage of the protestors from WBNG-TV Channel 12:

(1) WIVT/WBGH Newschannel 34 (Feb 24) – Cuomo Protestors

(2) Press & Sun-Bulletin (Feb 24) – Frustrated protesters kept away from Cuomo

(3) Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (Feb 24) – Press Release