Hydraulic fracturing has proven to be a hot button issue in New York state as Gov. Andrew Cuomo deliberates over whether to implement test wells or not. The practice involves injecting water and chemicals thousands of feet underground to crack open shale beds, releasing large amounts of natural gas.
The debate is centered on weighing jobs created by hydrofracking operations against potentially negative environmental consequences. The real issue, however, is Cuomo’s inability to make a decision either way, instead choosing to delay what could prove to be an administration-defining arbitration.
Cuomo’s stance on fracking is simple. Paraphrasing the governor, American radio host and environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said, “If it’s causing health problems, I really don’t want it in New York state. And if it’s not causing health problems, we should figure out a way we can do it.”
Cuomo has continued to maintain that he will choose “science, not politics” as the main influencing factor on the issue. Last month, however, the governor came exceptionally close to approving 40 test wells to be heavily regulated and monitored, until he backed out following his conversation with Kennedy. It could be more than a year before Cuomo reaches a decision. I’m no pundit, but that sounds like politics as usual to me.
I agree that we need to weigh the environmental consequences of fracking. If we constantly keep pushing back a definitive answer on the issue because there are always new, improved and more conclusive studies coming out every year, we will never get anywhere on the issue. A year will not go by where there isn’t a new study on fracking. It seems obvious to me that test wells like those that Cuomo almost approved will be the most conclusive.
Test wells would allow insight into the economic effects on the community, as well as environmental effects. Through close regulation and monitoring, it’s exceptionally viable. From there, further decisions on implementation and expansion can be made. According to correspondent Danny Hakim of The New York Times, “The state’s health department found in an analysis it prepared early last year that the much-debated drilling technology known as hydrofracking could be conducted safely in New York.”
Reports have indicated that fracking is currently being done safely. The information that Cuomo is seeking is already out there. It has the potential to keep an industrialized America running self-sufficiently for hundreds of years, and the job opportunities it would provide to people struggling in New York would be very welcome.
Yet it has been linked to earthquakes and pollution of groundwater. Keep in mind, however, that fracking has been going on for roughly 60 years, but vast technological advances in the process over the past 10 years help to minimize, and even eliminate many of the cons.
Whether you support fracking or not, we should all support progress and right now there is none. Cuomo is stalling and he stopped moving forward on the issue at the worst possible time – just as he was about to give the operation the go-ahead. If Cuomo says yes to fracking, then we’ll have jobs and natural gas in this state for decades to come. If Cuomo says no to fracking, then we can all move on to other initiatives and keep moving forward in whatever way possible.