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February 19, 2014

In Our Opinion: Public deserves decision on fracking

The Daily Star

---- — Most prominent politicians — despite enormous evidence to the contrary — are not stupid.

At the very least, they share the dubious attribute of being cunning, particularly in an election year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is no exception.

Cuomo can read, add and subtract, but based on his administration’s policy regarding fracking in the state, he is reluctant to divide.

A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday said New York state voters oppose fracking by a narrow 45 percent to 41 percent margin. The governor is running for re-election in November, and while the same survey shows the Democrat comfortably ahead of any prospective Republican opponent, a wise politician will go out of his way to avoid offending half of the electorate.

And that is precisely what Cuomo is doing in attempting to delay a decision about whether to allow hydrofracking permits to be issued in New York state. We are frankly amazed that only 35 percent of respondents to the survey opined that Cuomo is “dragging his feet” on the issue.

The way he is dragging those feet, his heels are likely to plow a furrow in the Capitol building lobby.

While this newspaper’s editorial board does not support fracking in our local counties, we believe it is long past time for a decision to be made and announced. It is only fair to all involved.

A lawsuit filed Friday by the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York — a 70,000-member pro-fracking group — argues that the state’s decision to hold off on deciding about drilling rules until state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah completes a study of health impacts was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Shah said in Albany this month he has no timetable for completing his task. Last March — nearly a year ago — Shah said he planned to give his recommendation about allowing or not allowing hydrofracking to Cuomo “in weeks.”

We didn’t think he meant 48 weeks, but that is how long it has been since he made that statement. The delay would seem — if not capricious — certainly arbitrary … and absurd.

The Unatego Area Landowners Association, a local pro-fracking group, told The Daily Star that it contributed $11,000 to help fund the lawsuit. The organization’s leader, Dick Downey of Otego, said: “Cuomo is dragging his feet because he doesn’t want to offend his (Democratic Party) base.”

We disagree ... to an extent. Cuomo not only doesn’t want to offend his base, he doesn’t want to offend anybody who might be casting a ballot in November.

But putting off whatever fracking decision is made for such a transparently political reason may wind up offending everybody.

And that would just be downright stupid.