- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2013

After delaying a decision whether to allow fracking in parts of upstate New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo can’t wait much longer.

Friday marks of the end of a 30-day public comment period, during which stakeholders, environmental groups, fracking proponents and ordinary New Yorkers have been able to weigh in and offer their thoughts to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Mr. Cuomo, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has faced intense pressure from both sides of the fracking debate.

Critics have mounted an unprecedented public relations campaign to keep the practice out of the Empire State. That effort has included the growing “Artists Against Fracking” organization, led by Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and dozens of other celebrities.

The artists plan another demonstration on Friday afternoon, and also will deliver boxes of comments to Mr. Cuomo’s office, according to New York media reports.

But Mr. Cuomo also appears to recognize the economic benefits that await upstate New York if fracking is allowed. Residents in that part of the state need only look south to Pennsylvania to see how struggling small towns can be revitalized by the practice, which uses water, sand and chemicals to break apart underground shale formations and release huge quantities of fuel. The Marcellus Shale, one of the largest underground natural gas deposits in the world, underlies parts of upstate New York and oil and gas companies are eager to tap into it.

During his “State of the State” speech earlier this week, Mr. Cuomo conceded that upstate New York is in desperate need of help, a possible sign that he’s prepared to green-light the new technique. He did not, however, directly address the issue during his lengthy address.

“We need an additional focus on upstate New York. There have been decades of decline in upstate New York. When you look at the job growth in upstate New York, frankly, it is sad and it is troubling,” said Mr. Cuomo, a first-term Democrat.

While his administration has largely been mum on fracking, Mr. Cuomo is developing a strategic energy plan for the state. He lured away U.S. Energy Department adviser Richard Kauffman to serve as New York’s new energy czar, a surprising move that indicates Mr. Cuomo is prepared to take dramatic steps on energy policy.