- - Thursday, December 18, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

New York just gave Vladimir Putin and the Middle Eastern energy sheikhs an early Christmas present. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after considerable dithering, finally did what everyone assumed he would. He banned fracking and gave up the bounty lying beneath his state. He sides with the radical environmentalists of the Democratic Party against the interests of his 19 million constituents, wasting an opportunity to fire up the rusty economic engine of high-tax, slow-growth New York. So much for the Empire State’s boastful claim that “New York is open for business.”

The issue of whether to allow fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, tormented Mr. Cuomo throughout his entire first term as governor. New York, like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, has the good providence of sitting atop the Marcellus Shale, which contains vast reserves of subterranean natural gas. Once he was re-elected in November, the governor, eager to avoid answering for the consequences of his decision, called on his acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, to provide cover, in a determination of the effects of fracking on the health of humans. The good doctor didn’t want the responsibility, either. In a report released Wednesday, Dr. Zucker cited concerns over “significant public health risks” to air and water quality but said fracking requires “further scientific study,” the usual excuse of bureaucrats too timid to do their duty.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discounts the effect of fracking on groundwater, and fracking has been used safely in extracting oil and gas from the rock beneath the surface of the land for more than 60 years. Opposition to fracking has been driven by environmental extremists whose utopian dream of a world powered by sunlight and gentle breezes animates their fear and loathing of fossil fuels. Mr. Cuomo, with aspirations of higher office, is driven by his own fear, such as crossing the Luddites of the green lobby in the Democratic Party.

Overseas interests that can’t be expected to have America’s best interests at heart put their heavy thumbs on the scale in opposition to fracking. “Promised Land,” the 2012 propaganda film portraying a fictional town trying to save its pristine lands from a rapacious natural gas corporation, was funded in part by the United Arab Emirates, and Russia has long been suspected of funding campaigns across Europe protesting the use of fracking. Moscow considers the prospect of cheaper energy a mortal threat to its economy because more than half of its revenue is derived from the oil and gas sector. Mr. Cuomo’s ruling could have been greeted abroad with excitement similar to the ecstasy of a turn on Santa’s lap.

By making the fracking ban permanent, Mr. Cuomo has taken a page from President Obama’s Keystone XL pipeline playbook. Mr. Obama has blocked construction of the pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast and its many refineries, despite the loss of tens of thousands of prospective jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue. New York, whose business climate is ranked by the Tax Foundation as second to last in the nation, could look to the fracking example of neighboring Pennsylvania, where energy companies have contributed more than $2.1 billion in state and local taxes since fracking began, and over the past four years have added more than 15,000 jobs with average annual salaries of $93,000.



The takeaway from New York’s delay of fracking is that elections matter. New Yorkers have the option of voting with their feet by heading slightly south to Pennsylvania, where the economic climate, if not necessarily the other climate, is considerably warmer. These will be some of New York’s most productive citizens.

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