Swift Response to Cuomo’s NY Fracking Plan

As MDN predicted yesterday, the initial reaction of anti-drillers in New York that Gov. Cuomo is considering limited fracking in the state has been negative (see this MDN story). They needn’t worry, and once they figure it out, they’ll be happy with Andy’s latest plan because it gives them an excuse to protest and rabble-rouse at town board meetings for the next two years. The fight is going local in New York.

The Albany Times Union hints that Cuomo’s “announcement” of his plans for fracking—which was leaked to the New York Times yesterday—is a trial balloon to gage public reaction to the idea that he would allow drilling in five (MDN calls it the “Lucky Five”) Southern Tier counties of New York for a couple of years to see how it goes.

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo was floating a trial balloon on Wednesday about his plans to allow limited hydrofracking in specific parts of the state, it succeeded in drawing the passionate attention of those on both sides of the issue.

Reaction was swift following a report in The New York Times that the governor planned to allow up to 50 hydrofracking wells in five Southern Tier counties in which the communities are likely to approve the controversial natural gas drilling technique.

Just hours after the story was posted online, a group of Assembly Democrats — many from New York City and other regions — registered their displeasure in a letter to the governor and during a news conference. They believe more study is needed before moving ahead.

"We get only one chance at this," said Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton of Ithaca, referring to the study the state is conducting. She recruited 75 other lawmakers to sign a letter urging the governor to answer specific questions about hydrofracking, and its potential environmental effects.

"This is an experiment that really deserves more exploration," said Steve Englebright of Long Island.

Then came word of the demonstrations and news conferences planned for Thursday: New Yorkers Against Fracking said they planned a demonstration at the Capitol; supporters, represented by a group of Southern Tier town supervisors who support gas development, said they also plan to travel to the Capitol.

…it appears that Cuomo has narrowed the scope of how he may proceed on hydrofracking. According to the news report — which Cuomo didn’t deny — the process would initially be limited to Chemung, Chenango, Steuben, Tioga and Broome counties. Fifty wells would initially be allowed, and the development would only be permitted in communities that want it. That would maintain the ability of towns to ban hydrofracking; some bans have already prompted legal challenges.*

In snatches of conversation MDN heard last evening at a pro-drilling rally in Conklin, NY, it seems that New York landowners are encouraged by Cuomo’s plan. The attitude is, “we’re moving in the right direction.” And, “at least there’s some movement.”

MDN wishes it shared their optimism. Yes, at least this will get the ball rolling, but 50 permits? Really?? When PA and OH and WV will issue hundreds and in some cases thousands of permits—each—this year? And what about the landowners not in the Lucky Five counties? What about their property rights? MDN thinks Cuomo’s plan as outlined thus far is way too little and way too late. Better than nothing? Perhaps—but barely.

*Albany (NY) Times Union (Jun 14, 2012) – Is trial balloon full of shale gas?

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