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June 8, 2013

Hey Gov. Cuomo, are you in or out?

By Dick Downey Guest Commentary
The Daily Star

---- — Message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo: the data’s in but you’re out. The decision on drilling that was supposed to be science-based seems more and more political. Postponement follows postponement. Meanwhile, the data accumulates.

For seven years, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has maintained hundreds of monitoring stations in the basin. Fifty eight are situated in the headwaters area, including heavily drilled Pennsylvania.

These stations measure water quantity and quality, using satellite technology for real time sampling; i.e., every five minutes for data intake and every hour and a half for satellite pick-up. The data is then posted on the internet. These samplings are augmented by bi-monthly and quarterly on-site data collection for a wide variety of specific chemicals.

Aside from occasional turbidity (muddy water), there has been no (that’s zip, zero, nada) change in water quality or quantity in areas where drilling has occurred. Check it out, Governor, at www.SBRC.net. Or give them a call. You’ve got the juice to get personal attention.

New York’s Chattauqua County, home of 5,000 wells, has collected data for 30 years on water-well disturbances suspected to be caused by drilling. After a spate of reports from 1983 to 1988, your Department of Environmental Conservation instituted new drilling protocols. Since August 1988, there has been 26 reports, about one report a year. Most prove to be temporary turbidity. A half-dozen have been forwarded to the DEC for follow-up.

The moratorium has tamped down recent activity, but in the last decade there were 300 to 500 stimulations per year. A synopsis of these logs can be obtained in a six page spreadsheet from the Chattauqua County Department of Health. That’s more data, Governor.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has drafted a set of rules for drilling shale formations on public lands, using the data and best practices from eleven states. Acknowledging the controversy over hydraulic fracturing, she noted that a moratorium or ban would “ignore the reality that hydraulic fracturing has been done for decades.” She further noted a dampening effect on the national economy if such actions were taken. Call your clipping service, Governor, and check out the press release on May 20. The Feds are moving ahead while New York dawdles.

While you’re at it, Governor, have your people scroll back to The Big Story (Associated Press, August 16, 2013), when the US Energy Information Agency related that CO2 emissions in the United States had reached a 20-year low. The drop-off, the agency said, was mainly due to power companies switching from coal to natural gas. So, you can take the bricks out of the gubernatorial toilet tank and turn the thermostat up a couple of clicks, and still feel righteous … provided you follow the science on what really is working to lower CO2 emissions.

Diana Furchgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute has studied the economic effect of gas development in Pennsylvania on per capita income over the last decade and projected the findings on New York. While projections are subject to market price fluctuations and the unknown capacity and quality of New York’s untested gas fields, the conclusions are impressive. If New York had developed its gas resources, it would have garnered $8 billion dollars in extra income for its citizens over a 4-year period. The study doesn’t include the substantial taxes that would have gone to our local schools, towns and highway departments through the ad valorem tax. Sure beats the economic news from Elmira and Binghamton. (Manhattan Institute, Growth and Prosperity Report, May 2013)

Lately you’ve been touting upstate job development through tourism, casinos, yogurt, and tax free start-ups. We welcome your attention to Upstate New York’s fundamental problem: many people can’t make a living here. However, we suggest that your vision of rambling, gambling, sipping, and slipping tax payer cash to selected private individuals and companies isn’t going to provide the economic heft to reverse our decline. Upstaters need good jobs, cheap energy, lower taxes. We need opportunities for our young. We need support for an educational system that expands opportunity rather than closes schools.

So, the decision is up to you. Are you going to join the rest of the country that has realistically looked at risk/benefit, strengthened regulation, and embraced the gift of shale gas technology? Or are you joining the naysayers who can only predict The Apocalypse.

The data’s in. Are you in or out? It’s your call.

DICK DOWNEY is a member of the Unatego Area Landowners Association.