Cuomo administration to face a fearsome test
New York state’s Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, Joe Martens, has issued his widely anticipated hydrofracking report. Unfortunately, the results have failed miserably to protect the people living in and around the Marcellus shale where large deposits of natural gas exist. The extraction of the gas can be accomplished by what is called hydraulic fracturing or the more well-known hydrofracking, which involves forcing water and chemicals down into the shale in a vertical direction and then proceeding horizontally for relatively long distances.
The decision to move ahead and extract the gas will certainly be the most contentious decision of the Cuomo administration thus far, to put it mildly.
There is no one who doesn’t believe that Andrew Cuomo has his eye on the presidency. Indeed, Cuomo has shown the United States what he can do in New York. His success with ethics legislation, on-time budgets and a tax cap are just a few of the reforms that have impressed the voters and put Cuomo’s polling numbers into the stratosphere. Like FDR and TR, Cuomo can now demonstrate to the people whose energy needs are never ending that he has some answers there, too. And like President Obama, who still has not renounced nuclear energy, Cuomo will have to make some compromises.
If you don’t believe that Cuomo communicated to his environmental commissioner how he wanted that final report to read, you ought to visit your analyst. Clearly, the issuance of this report has been on the political table from day one. When you consider that no less than our most precious resource, our drinking water, is at stake, you had better believe that the Cuomo administration is about to face its most fearsome test.
Martens tells us that the watersheds of New York and Syracuse will be protected because they are “unfiltered.” The rest of the drilling area will be left at risk for contaminated water. Scientists from Cornell University who have been studying the procedure are anticipating very dangerous outcomes if fracking goes forward. Marten tells us that with all of his so-called protections, a full 85 percent of the shale gas will be extracted. He has even appointed luminaries such as Cuomo’s former brother-in-law, Robert F. Kennedy, to an advisory committee to make sure that the process is done right. Kennedy should watch out for his environmental reputation. Accepting this dubious position could hurt him.
As for the people of New York, if they think that health and possibly their live will be threatened, you had better believe that their fury and determination will be unabated. Cuomo and his group waited until the end of the Legislative session to come out with this report. Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried and his environmental equivalent, Kevin Cahill, immediately and forcefully warned that people will be at risk if this policy is adopted.
Because much of the gas will be exported, many people are concerned that their health and the health of their children are being put at risk to help the Chinese with their energy problems. Luckily for us in the U.S., will still have a democracy and are guaranteed the freedom to assemble. In China, once the government decides it is a done deal, if you get in the way you go to jail.
This time Cuomo will have a tiger by the tail and you know what it means if that tiger turns.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 7/5/11