The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Denying Fracking Science in New York

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 11, 2015

Nowhere in the United States is there more to learn from EPA’s recent water/fracking study than in the state of New York.

Six months ago Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned hydraulic fracturing as too hazardous. Though the Cuomo administration conducted no original research of its own, the governor said no to fracking, no to jobs and economic growth – especially in the state’s struggling Southern Tier. He all but extinguished the hopes of many upstaters for a home-grown economic miracle – like the one occurring next door in Pennsylvania, thanks to fracking – one that would help save family farms, let children and grandchildren live and prosper where they were raised and help ensure economic security for thousands.

Yet, EPA’s five-year, multi-million-dollar study says the governor’s concerns are basically baseless, that safe hydraulic fracturing doesn’t threaten the nation’s drinking water. EPA:

“We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”   

karenGov. Cuomo should change his mind. He should do as he often has said and follow the science. And the science says he should lift New York’s fracking ban, clearing the way for safe and responsible natural gas development, jobs and economic growth.

During a press conference this week in Albany, Karen Moreau (left), executive director of API New York, said the governor and his administration have an opportunity to make a big difference for the state’s residents:

“We are the state with a significant amount of resource in the Marcellus Shale and the Southern Tier of this state that we are not able to touch. … There are people … that live this every single day – that live with the consequences of this decision and the impact on their families and their communities. … Very few times does a leader get the opportunity to help a segment of the population that so desperately needs help, and that’s really the story of the Southern Tier.”

Gov. Cuomo has that chance to make the right decision on fracking and natural gas development for all of New York. The opening lines from a new study by the Harvard Business School:

America’s unconventional gas and oil resources are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance the nation’s economic competitiveness while minimizing environmental impacts, and making major progress toward reduced greenhouse-gas emissions. But there is a real risk that American citizens, companies, and communities will fail to capitalize on this opportunity because of misunderstanding and distrust. Unconventional energy production is mired in political gridlock and consumed by public and stakeholder frustrations on local community and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, as well as climate concerns.

“Misunderstanding and distrust,” “political gridlock” and “frustrations” – while these aren’t exclusive to New York, there’s nowhere they echo louder than in Albany’s halls of power. New York’s fracking ban is hurting New Yorkers. Greg Lancette, New York State Pipe Trades Association, representing 14 local unions and 25,000 members:

“Working men and women in New York have watched as our brethren in other states have reaped the benefits of fracking. We in New York believed the governor when he said that science would influence his decision. Now the EPA has weighed in and reinforced what those of us who work in the field already knew, that properly regulated natural gas development is safe and good for the environment and for jobs. We need the governor to lift the ban in New York and give our members the chance to work close to home.”

Unfortunately, the Cuomo administration remains dug in, with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation issuing the following statement the very day EPA released its study:

The EPA's review focused on impacts to water resources related to high-volume hydraulic fracturing, while the state review was much broader – examining impacts to air, water, public health, ecosystems, wildlife and community character. Our review identified many potential significant adverse impacts. As the EPA said, states are in the best position to make decisions regarding high-volume hydraulic fracturing. In December, the DOH Report concluded that HVHF should not move forward in New York State. DEC will release its Findings Statement shortly consistent with this position.

Instead of following the science, the Cuomo administration apparently intends to just deny it. The Wall Street Journal editorialized:

The Rochester and Buffalo metro areas are the third and fourth poorest cities in America after Detroit and Cleveland, according to the Census, but they could become the northeastern capitals of the U.S. energy renaissance. When even the EPA blesses fracking, the self-serving political hackery behind Mr. Cuomo’s ban is exposed for all the world to see.

Basically, EPA’s study stripped the Cuomo administration of its cover. It is thus exposed – as caring more about activist agendas and talking points than about sound science and economic reason. New York is the loser. Inge-Grafe Kieklak, Sullivan County landowner:

“I have watched the suffering of my friends and neighbors first hand as they lose their farms and their families break up as children leave the state. There is no opportunity for young people here. We watch as our neighbors in Pennsylvania live in thriving communities because of fracking. Now the EPA says it can be done safely. It’s time for the governor to lift the ban. … He is supposed to be the governor for all.”

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.