The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

New York Embraces Politics, Fear With Fracking Ban

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted December 18, 2014

Some interesting perspective on New York’s decision to ban hydraulic fracturing – from neighboring Pennsylvania, where safe fracking has lifted the state economy while directly benefiting cities and towns all across the commonwealth.

Jeffrey Sheridan, press secretary for Governor-elect Tom Wolf’s transition team (to the Philadelphia Business Journal):

“Governor-elect Wolf opposes a ban, and he will work hard to make sure the process is safe. … Pennsylvania's natural resources should help the commonwealth become an energy leader, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as a magnet for investment and job creation. Governor-elect Wolf's priority is to ensure that Pennsylvania is an energy leader with all Pennsylvanians sharing in the prosperity.”

Pennsylvanians are indeed sharing in prosperity that’s being generated by shale energy development, via responsible hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling: More than $2.1 billion in state and local taxes paid by industry, more than $630 million distributed to communities since 2012 – including more than $224 million in 2014. Plus billions in royalties paid by operators to private landowners.

Patrick Henderson, energy executive for outgoing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, told the Pittsburgh Business Times that New Yorkers are simply losing out:

“Every enterprise in life comes with some risk. How you manage and mitigate those risks, while realizing the benefits, is the test of leadership. New York's decision is, in many ways, a compliment to Pennsylvania's policymakers, environmental regulators, natural gas operators and sensible environmental organizations that Pennsylvania has found a path to protect our environment and local communities while leading the way to energy independence and economic prosperity.”

The decision by the Cuomo administration in New York is especially difficult for a number of reasons. First, hydraulic fracturing has been under review in New York for more than six years. Meanwhile, state officials have seen successful energy development in Pennsylvania and other states. Those experiences are real and should have informed New York’s decision.

Unfortunately, the Cuomo team bowed to political pressure instead of embracing energy science. Now New York is extending a sort of energy isolation – even as the state has watched energy costs fall, thanks to affordable natural gas provided by states that allow safe fracking. (Quipped Pennsylvania’s Henderson: “I also apparently missed New York's accompanying announcement that they will no longer be using natural gas.”)

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell warned against an anti-fracking decision motivated by politics – and fear – in a 2013 piece for the New York Daily News:

If we choose to embrace natural gas, it will help us get past a number of significant economic and environmental challenges. On the other hand, if we let fear carry the day, we will squander another key moment to move forward together. …  As the former Democratic governor of a major natural gas-producing state, I know we can enjoy the benefits of gas production while also protecting the environment. … As a Democrat, I understand the worries of those who question natural gas development. I have shared some of their concerns. But I would ask that folks do as I did: Step back and look at the facts. See the bigger picture.

The safety of responsible hydraulic fracturing has been underscored by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, former Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and others. Jewell, during a recent interview with the Huffington Post:

“Fracking has been around for over 60 years. … So, if done safely and responsibly – and it can be, and it is being done safely and responsibly – it can unlock a lot of resources with less surface disturbance.”

The Cuomo administration’s decision to ban fracking is a “no” to more than $11 billion in economic output that would come with shale energy development, according to a study by the Manhattan Institute. It’s a “no” to some 15,000 to 18,000 jobs that could be created in the state’s Southern Tier and Western New York. It’s a “no” to $1.4 billion in tax revenues that could be generated if the ban were lifted – an amazing decision from a state that runs television commercials designed to attract new business activity.

Other states – Illinois, North Carolina and Maryland – have seen the same studies reviewed by New York officials and are carefully moving toward joining the energy revolution built by hydraulic fracturing. New York sits and waits while the revolution passes it and its citizens by.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.