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Guest Column

December 7, 2013

Attitudes are changing on gas drilling

With elections over, the candidate lawn signs are gone. Otsego’s permanent signage has once again returned. “For Sale” signs have reclaimed the lawns — people attempting to sell and leave.

Our county’s economic doldrums have spurred state Sen. James Seward’s two economic summits. Last year’s focused on local assets and strategies to boost those assets. This year’s featured a nanotech educator from SUNY Utica’s Institute of Technology and upstate regional and county economic developers.

The keynoter was a consultant specializing in corporate site development. After touring Otsego and interviewing many, he opined that we were not quite ready for prime time. We need a go-to person — to open doors, take care of needs, and expedite matters — a one-stop shop. We also need ready-to-go sites. “Shovel-ready” was the catch phrase of the day. In closing, Seward observed: “We have a lot of work to do.”

One asset ignored was natural gas. In future discussions on economics, let’s take the wraps off this verboten word. Natural gas is in our economic future, like it or not.

The Constitution Pipeline starts in 2015. It’s a FERC project; it will be built. This transmission pipeline will off-load Pennsylvania gas to distribution lines in Otsego County and beyond. Liquid natural gas (LNG) will be delivered to stranded communities and anchor facilities. It’s simple economics — lower fuel bills.

When the moratorium is lifted, gas development will start in the Southern Tier. Development occurs along the “highways,” i.e., the pipelines. By 2015 or thereabouts, those “highways” will have moved from the drawing boards to construction. At some point in the future, New York gas will be servicing New York customers.

The Indian Point nuclear power plant is on borrowed time. It’s old, on a fault line, and Cuomo hates it but it generates 2,000 megawatts of electricity. How is New York City going to replace that much power? Underutilized upstate plants will provide some of that power but nowhere near enough. Coal fired plants are out. Wind/solar? Give me a break! Hydro from Canada? Possibly, but not enough.

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