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December 11, 2012

Fracking in N.Y. poses dilemma for Gov. Cuomo

By Cary Brunswick
The Daily Star

---- — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who could be squaring off with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, is stuck between shale and a hard place on the question of whether to allow fracking in the state.

According to a recent poll by the Siena Research Institute, 42 percent of voters support allowing hydrofracking to move forward in New York and 36 percent oppose it. A majority of downstate suburban voters and a solid plurality of New York City voters support fracking, but upstate voters, by a small 45 to 39 percent margin, oppose fracking.

Obviously, Cuomo is going to be in trouble with about half the state’s people regardless of how the state Department of Environmental Conservation rules on fracking.

And that decision could be handed down by the end of February now that the DEC has extended by three months its Nov. 29 deadline to complete its regulatory review. It also opened up the public comment process on recent revisions for another 30 days, from Wednesday until Jan. 11.

The DEC is under fire for the revisions, by drillers because there are new, stricter regulations on drilling, and by fracking opponents because the changes were made before a major environmental review and a health-impact study were completed.

Some drilling firms, in financial trouble because of the state’s moratorium on fracking, say they do expect the DEC to OK the controversial process in the first quarter of next year.

But that action by the state would be a major mistake. Regardless of regulations, there is no guaranteed safe way to drill by fracking, and, besides, we should not regress to more drilling for fossil fuels at a time we need to move to alternative energy sources.

U.S. doesn’t do it in Doha

The United Nations climate change conference concluded Saturday in Doha with the United States yet again refusing to go along with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that addressed greenhouse gas emissions. 

An extension of Kyoto until 2020 was approved, but was opposed by the world’s major polluters: the U.S., China and India. For 15 years, the U.S. has refused to ratify the Kyoto agreement. Previous Kyoto signatories Japan, Russia and Canada also refused to agree to the extension.

About the only good news to come out of the conference for a planet facing a global-warming crisis was an agreement to meet again in 2015 and try to come up with a new commitment to emissions reductions.

At the end of a year that is expected to be the warmest on record, with Arctic ice melting, severe drought in some regions, and the spawning of super storms such as Sandy, you would think the U.S. and other industrial giants would be more proactive in agreeing to emission reductions.

According to Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Friends of the Earth International energy coordinator, “developed countries did not even try to solve the climate crisis at these talks. Instead, they continued to protect the interests of fossil-fueled corporations and helped financial elites grow their latest cash cow: the global carbon market scam.”

Good-bye to Texas

Hey, if Texas really wants to secede from the union, I say go ahead. As one of the reddest states, it clearly is out of touch with most of the rest of the nation.

The latest batch of secession talk was whipped up after the election, in which President Barack Obama was re-elected and Democrats made gains in Congress. It must have been a real blow to Texans, who supported Mitt Romney by nearly a 3-2 margin.

While post-election sourpusses in several states have launched petitions for secession, it all started in Texas, which has forwarded its document with more than 100,000 signatures to the White House.

The Texas Nationalist Movement, a major supporter of secession, believes the presidential election served as a clear signal from the rest of the union to Texas that “we do not care for your right of local self-government and we do not share your values.’’

Daniel Miller, TNM president, says Obama’s re-election “represented a descent into the final destruction of the republican form of government envisioned by the Founders of the United States and Texas.’’

Fortunately, most Texans don’t agree and realize the idea of secession is as foolish as the people circulating petitions. A 2009 Rasmussen Reports poll found only 18 percent would vote to secede.

And a Dallas Morning News editorial said that “even in the fiercely independent Lone Star State, this idea is road kill. While the signatories are exercising their right to free speech, this idea is just plumb screwy and an odd rejection of basic American principles.’’

Cary Brunswick, of Oneonta, is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at brunswick@earthling.net. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board.