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August 21, 2013

Fracking deserves Obama's attention

The Daily Star

---- — One would think that with all the things President Barack Obama must have on his mind — Russia, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Obamacare, the economy, the Israel-Palestinian peace talks, congressional gridlock, just to name a few — that when he visits Binghamton University at 12:30 p.m. Friday, fracking wouldn’t be on the top of his list of items to talk about.

But hydraulic fracturing for natural gas will almost certainly be at the top of the agenda for many of those who plan to attend his speech, even as Obama is likely to spend most of his talk advocating for membership in his health care plan.

Anti-fracking groups in our area and elsewhere in New York state have been rallying their followers to make their views known when the president shows up.

For anyone who has Obama’s job, the prospect of leading the United States toward the decades-long goal of energy independence has to be extremely enticing. While Obama has to be careful about antagonizing his core constituency of liberal Democrats who oppose fracking, he has generally encouraged the procedure.

New horizontal fracturing procedures, Obama said earlier this year in Pittsburgh, have “helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years,” and “we’ll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we’re not seeing methane emissions.”

Anti-frackers insist that no state has adequate safeguards to ensure that people have clean water and air. They worry that the president will choose energy revenue over the environment.

So, expect to see demonstrators on both sides of the fracking issue in Binghamton on Friday. But one person who won’t be there is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose dithering on the fracking issue makes Hamlet seem decisive.

“Every area that has participated in fracking will say it has increased commercial activity and it has an economic boost,” Cuomo said on public radio’s “Capital Pressroom. “The question is, is there a cost to the environment, to health, et cetera. That’s what has to be assessed and that’s what has to be weighed and that’s what we’re doing.”

Cuomo has repeatedly said his decision on whether to allow horizontal fracturing in New York will be forthcoming as soon as he gets the results of a study by state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah — who may just wait until after the November elections.

Meanwhile, Cuomo will appear with the president in Buffalo, but not in Syracuse and Binghamton, where fracking is a big issue and people might get upset with him. Citizens on both sides of the fracking issue deserve a little more political courage from their governor.