By a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, the majority of RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents this week disagreed with the decision to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.
After years of study by state officials, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s environmental commissioner, Joe Martens, last week said he would ban fracking in the state. The decision followed completion of a review of potential health risks related to fracking, which is used to extract gas deeper than 2,000 feet. In effect, this continues a prohibition on fracking in New York that has existed since the review began some six years ago.
The study cited a range of potential but not proven health and environmental risks such as air, water and soil contamination, and earthquakes induced during fracturing.
“I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered,” said Howard Zucker M.D., acting Department of Health commissioner. “I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done. I asked myself, ‘Would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no.”
Environmentalists and others who have opposed fracking in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale lauded the decision. By contrast, Unshackle Upstate, noting that Pennsylvania and other states nationwide are reaping “numerous economic benefits from responsible natural gas development,” described it as “a tremendous blow to the upstate economy.”
Roughly 875 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Dec. 21. In a similar Snap Poll conducted in December 2012, 60 percent of readers favored fracking in the Marcellus Shale.
Do you agree or disagree with the decision to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York?
For information on how the Snap Polls are conducted, click here.
It was a political decision influenced again by voter percentages. With all the sources available here in New York, we could have figured out how to do it without risks to our health. Perhaps a little strange why the original commissioner resigned?
—Ed Rosen, Fairport
The left-wing political machine in downstate New York knocks down yet another opportunity for economic development in Upstate New York. They have no data to support their opposition to responsible fracturing, just opinions. They should continue to pay $4 for gas. Responsible New Yorkers trying to reach their economic potential are leaving New York. I’ll be joining them.
—Luis A. Martinez, Pittsford
My agreement is based on the poor economics of the process. Regulations require enforcement (cost of equipment and manpower paid by taxes). When violations or accidents occur, what follows is litigation (cost of courts, lawyers and appeals). Finally comes remediation requiring oversight and disruption (cost of manpower, equipment and inspections). The profit is taken by the oil companies—the risk and costs are left to New York State taxpayers as is the damaged infrastructure (roads, waste containment, etc.). Have we forgotten Love Canal?
—Wayne Donner, Rush
I would prefer a compromise that includes full disclosure of the chemicals proposed for use and a demonstrated plan to prevent environmental damage by treating the waste byproducts.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster
We have the technology, if applied correctly, to frack safely. But after five years of study the state health commissioner says he doesn’t have enough data and the decision to ban fracking is made by a politician who has no technical training at all. Even the alchemists in the dark ages were more correct. At least they had a worthy goal.
I think that New York State is not in a position to deny any good business opportunities, and this will be a decision that will be seen as a mistake in years to come.
Hard to figure out how New York got so smart and the 30 states that already allow it got so stupid.
—Jim Haefner, Pittsford
We must never lose sight of our most important natural resource in New York State: clean water. Fracking is a dirty process, creating millions of gallons of polluted water. The energy industry has a horrible safety record when it comes to processing their waste and maintaining safety. Other communities that have allowed fracking have lived to regret it. By taking a strong stance and making it clear that New York State residents’ lives are more important than the dollar, Cuomo has done the right thing here. He listened to the evidence and not the money.
—Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed, Inc.
The state should have authorized a limited number of fracking trial wells with strictly controlled environmental sampling and reporting. This could have included a substantial escrow or insurance requirement against possible damage. The results of these trials would have provided data to show whether or not fracking could be carried out safely in New York.
It is very unfortunate that a reasonable compromise with all the environmental protections could not have been reached, allowing some fracking in the Southern Tier area of New York. The region is in desperate need of the jobs that would have been created including helping many farmers prosper with the benefit of royalty revenue. O’Connell Electric can attest to the economic benefits of fracking with tens of millions of dollars in revenue earned helping to build compressor and metering stations as a result of this natural gas production. It has provided dozens of jobs for our union electricians in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vermont and Connecticut. As a believer in protecting the environment and as a major player in alternative energy including wind and solar, it is very unfortunate that this economic shot in the arm has been squandered.
—Victor E. Salerno, CEO, O’Connell Electric Co. Inc.
My family owns 300 acres of farmland in the Southern Tier (Allegany County). We have a water well on that property for our camp. The water well draws water at 200 feet. The potential gas wells would be drawing gas deeper than 2,000 feet. This does not bother us in the least. Many states and many countries are successfully fracking bound by already overwhelming regulations. Of course there exists the possibility of an accident, but there are possibilities of accidents in every aspect of life. I own the mineral rights and I also pay exorbitant taxes on that property; now the state government tells me I can’t utilize one to help pay for the other. What that tells me is that I really don’t own my land or the mineral rights under it—the state does! In my eyes, that has to be illegal or unconstitutional or both.
Although comparisons are dangerous, what the New York City politicians—most recently Cuomo—are doing to upstate New York is eerily similar to what Joseph Stalin did to Ukraine in the late ’20s to early ’30s. He’s basically depriving the rural towns of their ability to survive. Of course, in the 21st century we have welfare EBT cards and Wegmans, so no one is starving, but if you look at the population and other demographic stats, the Southern Tier is economically devastated. Elmira, Hornell, all the small towns are dramatically smaller today than 30 years ago. The young people cannot find jobs, so they move out. Very sad, and totally caused by the anti-business politics of the New York City politicians who run this state. Cuomo is not all to blame, but he added coal to the fires of destruction and despair last week.
The science seems to show there’s more and more negatives to fracking as time progresses.
We are blessed statewide with clean fresh water and clean air. We also have an environment with our 300-plus wineries and rolling farmland that has been recognized internationally as one of the 10 best places in the world to visit, leading to ever-growing tourism. These must be protected and high-volume hydrofracking poses definite risk, in many cases unremedial risk. The ban is a decision with great foresight for the good of us all.
I think allowing fracking in designated areas would have been a better solution. This is just another dagger in the heart of New York’s upstate economy. Merry Christmas from Gov. Cuomo, et al.
—Peter Short, Pittsford
There are too many long-term risks that are unknown. Big corporations are not going to right a problem easily. Let’s not forget Love Canal, the Salt Mine disaster, any toxic waste dump that needs superfund money to clean it up. We the people end up paying for all this. Big corporations end up walking away making more money.
Brave, bold, visionary, based on empirical scientific research and observation—this is the kind of action I expect from all elected officials. This decision represents the best interest of all the citizens of the state, country and planet.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design
Ultimately, the economic advantages outweigh the environmental concerns. New York is the only state out of 35 that has geology conducive to fracking that does not allow it. Besides bringing jobs and tax revenue to New York State, it reduces our need to import petroleum from countries that have demonstrated they are not our friends. A balanced approach would allow us to address environmental concerns while tapping into this tremendous natural resource and bolstering the New York State economy.
—Arnie Boldt, Arnold-Smith Associates
While New York State lethargically studied the effects of hydrofracking for the last six years, 30 other states have gained tremendous economic advantages. And statistics show the method is safe. Hydrofracking has made the U.S.A. nearly energy-independent—something that has not been true for decades. At the very least, Mr. Martens could have permitted drilling in the Southern Tier counties, where most municipalities have been supportive of the activity. New York courts already determined that municipalities could zone out gas drilling if they chose to. Thank you, Gov. Cuomo, for another missed opportunity to improve our economy.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
Feels like a lose-lose, but I would rather have clean air and fresh water than a polluted Southern Tier. So many ways to reduce energy usage, we are just at the tip of the iceberg figuring out how. New York has to protect the Finger Lakes and the Great Lakes and come up with better ways to improve economic development than fracking and casinos. Continue to reduce and eliminate some taxes and fees for all.
I think the Cuomo administration should have spent the last few years coming up with stringent guidelines, enforceable regulations and high fees, which would pay for the strong enforcement and review by environmental regulators. If fracking is lucrative under those conditions—where the oil producers are paying the state for stringent regulation, enforcement and then also paying a fee for the volume of material they extract, which would add to the revenues of the state budget—then fracking should not be banned. Fracking should be allowed, but only under certain, well-defined and enforceable fees and regulation.
—Michael L. Harf
Fracking has been used in New York since the first nitroglycerine “drop” was used to create a pocket for the oil to collect in a pool at the bottom of the well. This was more than 100 years ago and no significant problems have resulted. Cuomo’s decision is short-sighted and politically motivated.
Simply another demonstration of the economic illiteracy of this irresponsible administration. A decision rooted in junk science and unfounded claims of health-related problems, in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, Cuomo and his henchmen prove once again their determination to keep New York (especially upstate) shackled to bottom of the economic ladder; while at the same time demonstrating their fealty to the those who dominate the environmental doomsday cult. Well done, Andy, a “profile in courage!”
—Bill Simpson, Irondequoit
As usual—Albany has left me not knowing what or which side to believe.
I pretty much disagree with everything Cuomo does. After passing the SAFE Act in the heat of the night behind closed doors, I consider him an enemy of the people. I wish more downstaters thought that.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
After six years of study, I would have expected to see the damaging testimonials that prompted the rejection. Now, I am convinced the study did not prove scientific damage, but political patronage. So, what else is new?
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
This decision is another reason why that high-rise condo in Hallandale Beach, Fla., is looking better and better when I stop working!
—Jerry McCabe, Irondequoit
Well done, Gov. Cuomo! As a lifelong fisherman (catch-and-release only) and as an avid outdoorsman, I’m thrilled that the Finger Lakes region will be spared the pollution that fracking would cause. It wouldn’t take long for fracking to damage the beauty that Mother Nature created for us 10,000 years ago. The water produced by fracking has nowhere to go except downhill and directly into the lakes and streams. (The perfect example is Onondaga Lake, outside Syracuse.) The ban is a Christmas gift to everyone who enjoys our beautiful region.
—Rich Calabrese, Rochester
This decision was contemptible. New York City progressives’ hatred of fossil fuels trumping the possibility of economic development in the Southern Tier. I wonder why these horrifying health issues have not occurred anywhere fracking has been done in the last 40 years. Has Williamsport been destroyed by fracking, or has it had an economic resurgence? Drive through Hornell, then drive thru Williamsport and decide for yourself.
I disagree with this decision. However, I don’t have a problem with New York’s decision at present. This preserves the natural resource for use at a later time when other reserves have been exhausted. There is no question about whether we will use these resources. It is simply a matter of when.
In the case where there is uncertainty about health and environmental risks created by any industry, the Precautionary Principle should prevail. The Precautionary Principle is defined as follows: When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm. Morally unacceptable harm refers to: harm to humans or the environment that is threatening to human life or health, or serious and effectively irreversible, or inequitable to present or future generations, or imposed without adequate consideration of the human rights of those affected. Given that the natural gas industry has been less than transparent about problems in other states, for now this is the right action. I applaud Dr. Zucker’s decision and Gov. Cuomo’s support of this decision.
—Holly Anderson, Breast Cancer Coalition
In New York State, the shale layers outcrop to the surface and it is much riskier for ground water contamination than in Pennsylvania. In addition, we have one of the best, most precious resources with our abundance of fresh water lakes. It is critical for our future that we do not risk contamination.
I welcome the decision. Fracking would radically reduce the quality of life in upstate New York. It would have clearly destroyed the wine and tourism industries that have been growing in the Finger Lakes for decades, benefitting only a few, mostly people who aren’t even New York State residents.
There is enough research to indicate that fracking has a potential for harm that far outweighs the positive financial impact. The need for additional research, testing byproducts of fracking process and exploring cleaner energy sources have the potential for clearing the way for fracking. At present we just don’t know—putting lives and environment at risk without the facts is shortsighted at best. At its worst, fracking can be a disaster in the making. At best, it is an economic savior that has the potential for making the United States energy-independent—not only raising economic prospects but delivering us from the wars that have arguably been waged in order to protect our energy interests on foreign sands.
Short-term gain for a few at the expense of many in struggling communities through exploiting our natural resources is NOT a good investment for the many who live, work, and play in our great state. We’re better than that, smarter than that, and wiser than that.
—Christine Corrado, RIT
I suppose most Snap Poll commenters will weigh in with kneejerk griping about government regulation as an impediment to economic growth. But our government and our capitalism fail morally if they permit an exploitative practice like fracking, which concentrates the greatest economic benefits on a relative few and distributes the environmental costs and health risks to virtually everyone.
This decision is so wrong in so many ways. Cuomo has hurt New York. Jobs, taxes reduced, energy cost, etc.
I’ve checked “agree” because I believe it is very important for the Finger Lakes area to be protected from the risks of hydrofracking. However, I think there should have been an exception for one or two economically depressed Southern Tier counties to be able to have limited hydrofracking under tight environmental controls, at least of a demonstration project nature. “All or nothing” is the kind of mindless governmental decision making to which we’ve become too accustomed.
—Diane Harris, president, Hypotenuse Enterprises Inc.
Once again our governor caves in to the downstate liberals. Can’t Upstate New York secede from New York City and become a separate state? Look at the county-by-county results from the last election and New York is a red state (without New York City)! Upstate could finally get back on a path to prosperity!
—George Thomas, Ogden
This should not be an agree-or-disagree decision. The state should do a real test on a few wells on state property and look at the results and then make a decision. The income to be gained and the jobs to be created are just too important to New York State. For a state that just loves to spend money and some real issues that could benefit from the well income, this is not a yes-or-no decision. Even though Gov. Cuomo has said no this issue is far from dead and in the next 10, 20 or 30 years this issue will be approved and the state will get some very valuable income. Then all we can do is hope the money isn’t wasted.
—Ken Pamatat, Creative Images Photography
Can’t save the state one casino at a time. The only people who benefit from casinos are casino owners, employees, drug dealers and prostitutes. Too much misinformation about fracking circulating around—too much unfounded/irrational fear. Coal is no longer the environmental boogieman, now it’s the pursuit of cleaner energy. Meanwhile, the Southern Tier will continue to decline.
—Lester Wilson, North Syracuse
We are continually told untruths about fracking from the small amount of people who stand to make big money from this devastating process. But finally the people won the battle and our state will not have to suffer the ill effects of fracking and all that goes with it.
Cuomo’s announcement was a completely political decision. Why after six years? Why six weeks after the election? And why have your environmental commissioner do the announcing? The Southern Tier is the most impoverished part of New York State. Take away New York City and the election for governor would have gone another way. I can’t believe how beholding the Democrats are to the environmental lobby. Because (the president) hasn’t and won’t sign the approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, hundreds of dangerous oil tanker train cars travel through Western New York. Shovel-ready jobs? You bet. The Southern Tier needed those jobs. NYS needed those jobs and America needed those jobs.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.
I don’t think the decision was made based on concern for health. I think this would bring many jobs to Southern Tier and also boost economy for Upstate New York. Timing for banning is also suspect—after re-election.
This was a political decision. Upstate did not vote for the governor; hence the payback. No other state has vetoed fracking due to health problems!
From what I have seen, the number of jobs created and “economic benefits” of fracking are really not all that great. Those same benefits could be easily created by supporting other environmentally safe energy alternatives, without the enormous dangers posed by fracking.
—Eric R. Derby, the Software Scout
Prefer it be left in the ground. Alternatively leave it there until and if a day comes when it is desperately needed. One hopes that by then states with a more extractive culture will have found ways to eliminate all or the worst of the present hazards of the process.
—Roy Kiggins, Seneca Falls
It is apparent the state took the least intelligent approach by choosing to ban fracking. A far more reasonable one would have been to allow it in areas where the economic needs are the greatest and restrict it in areas where the environmental concerns are the greatest.
—Hal Gaffin, Fairport
The health of our citizenry, our water, and our environment trumps the dubious economic “benefit” of allowing fracking in New York. More and more communities have enacted their own bans. Only a very few leaseholders would benefit, and some of them will probably find out it won’t be what they had hoped, and that they’ve screwed their neighbors.
—Margie Campaigne, Margie’s Green Home Consulting
What the Southern Tier (and the rest of Upstate New York) desperately needs is real economic development. We need to replace legacy industries with new companies that sell goods and services outside of the region. Fracking was more of a “get-rich-quick” scheme than the substantial and lasting economic development that we really need. Even if fracking was approved, there would have been little to no investment by petroleum companies in the foreseeable future. The current drop in the price of crude has priced the higher-cost fracking product out of the market. Even if wells can be economically successful further in the future, we would have to weigh the economic benefits against the heavy costs of the externalities (soil and water contamination, and the transportation of extremely volatile product).
If Bob Lonsberry is correct, there are 34 states where fracking could be undertaken. According to Bob, 33 have approved the procedure. This decision was purely political and ignored the needs of the Southern Tier. The length of time taken to complete the study says volumes for the Cuomo leadership.
—Dave Sliney, Macedon
12/26/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.