By Grady Hawkins
The hydraulic fracturing controversy reached its next but not final chapter late Saturday afternoon; at least for the administration of Governor David Patterson. After being besieged by armies of lobbyists, activists, farmers, scientists, and business people of every stripe, the governor deftly side-stepped the issue and passed the gas to Andrew Cuomo.
He vetoed legislation A11443-B which would have placed a moratorium on all natural gas exploration until May 15th of next year. He then issued an executive order that restricts horizontal drilling and fracking until July 2011.
Vertical drilling is not affected. Nor the jobs or revenue connected with these operations. So the gas industry is somewhat placated. As noted, horizontal drilling is stopped until next July, therefore appeasing environmentalists opposed.
But does this mean that vertical drilling leases may be bought up in New York State? If so, will the clear cutting begin to put in place the hundreds of miles of new roads and pipelines? And exactly what companies will be involved? How much money can New York State expect to get?
A different New York State Legislature will be seated in January, and another vote count will have to quietly taken. It would seem that Mr. Cuomo may not be able to stop hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, even if he wanted to. But will he want to?
At the end of the day, he may not be able to. The fact is the Empire State is broke. And where can the money be found to hold off the inevitable bankruptcy. The tax payers of the state have pretty much had enough. The Indian tribes are not looking favorably disposed to forking over sales taxes from their sovereign nations. Pensions, as well as other entitlements are not going to be negotiated away, and the private fiefdoms known as the authorities are probably safe in their kingdoms. And New York has a reputation of being unfriendly to business development. Mr. Cuomo may offer up a token resistance, but surrender to the gas industry, claiming his hands are tied.
He may not have much choice. However much Andrew wants change, the political machines have to be oiled, the corruption accommodated, and the patronage rewarded. It will not go away and they want a lot of money. Money the gas industry will be more than happy to supply.
We can expect a barrage of advertisements that will rival the full court grovel of British Petroleum. Stand by for beautiful nature photography, families back packing through pristine meadows, fly fishermen, and majestic eagles soaring over a squeaky clean oil rig. With Old Glory fluttering in the breeze, no doubt, reminding us of our patriotic duty to frack.
The principal target will more than likely be right here in western New York. The reason being the Delaware River Basin watershed will probably be Andrew Cuomo’s token habitat. The Delaware River flows for 400 miles and is considered one of the most pristine in the nation. It is also a principal water source for both New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York. New York City and Mayor Bloomberg have already told the gas Industry where to go and what to do when it gets there. There will be too much opposition for any development there.
Then Governor Cuomo may declare a victory by preserving this natural wonder. Besides, Albany gets its water from there.
Mr. Cuomo may have his own reason, that being the political ghost of Elliott
Spitzer. Like Mr. Spitzer, Andrew made his bones as the heir apparent sheriff of Wall Street. At least he went through those motions. And he probably knows that going after Wall Street can have its share of blow back. Elliott made plenty of enemies, and those enemies shot Elliott right out of the saddle. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t wish to follow in those political boots. Going after a banker’s bonus makes good copy, but it is risky.
So what better way for Andrew to mend his fences than by allowing the Gas industry its pound of shale?
By protecting the Delaware watershed, he also avoids any confrontation with loose cannon New Jersey. There will be considerable pressure, both political and personal to convince the governor to back off. With New York’s and New Jersey’s water shed’s safe, he can feel free to give the Corporations free reign in the rest of the State.
He will be able to declare New York on the cutting edge of this Industry. Promising to grow green jobs over those five acre oil pads, he will declare a new age.
The western New York delegation will feel free to protest for political cover, but in the end they will be out voted by the down State block. They can put up the good fight to avoid the ire of activists and environmentalists, and skate right on by.
Upstate New York has for some time considered it self to be the step-child of glamorous Manhattan. We need jobs desperately. Good paying jobs, not Wal-Mart showcase employment. And they will be there, hundreds of them. We may just be forced to make that deal with the Devil. The Buffalo News may point out the dangers, as Editor Margaret Sullivan has voiced her opposition. But you can be sure that Warren Buffet will want to be on that gas land band wagon. And you can be sure that our very own home grown right wing radio will be howling for horizontal deliverance from overseas enemies.
Anyone opposed will be called a tree-hugging wacko standing in the way of needed jobs, economic development, and denounced as an appeaser.
The activists have got the people on their side, but for how long? Will economic necessity trump environmental concerns? And will they be able to overcome the forces aligned against them?
Ask Andy Cuomo.