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Fracking decision political but right

January 8, 2015
Editorial , Lake Placid News

We're glad Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration has banned hydraulic fracturing in New York state. We think the risks outweigh the benefits. Clean water is the public's most valuable resource.

Nevertheless, it seems disingenuous for Gov. Cuomo to say the decision is both devoid of politics and based solely on science.

Will Oremus, writing recently on, cleverly refuted Cuomo's claim with this explanation.

As is the case with most new technologies, science will never clearly answer the hydraulic fracturing question because the studies often contradict each other. Those in favor of it can argue their point with scientific backing about natural gas being cleaner than coal, making power generation cleaner at power plants throughout the United States. Those against it argue about its effect on watersheds and that improper drilling techniques can harm the environment and people. There is so much science on both sides, no single study will provide irrefutable proof that hydraulic fracturing is either safe or unsafe.

All that was left, then, was the political act of weighing competing interests and making a choice. Gov. Cuomo, like Gov. David Paterson before him, took great pains to make it look like they were making a difficult decision. But rather, were they not waiting for the right time to announce a decision that had already been made?

The drumbeat for hydraulic fracturing was never louder than when the Northeast was locked into paying high energy prices to heat homes in the winter and after oil prices skyrocketed following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, causing high prices for gasoline and other oil-related products.

The time to ban fracking became right when two things happened:

1. Oil prices decreased and took away from fracking proponents the ability to argue it was essential to lower the price of natural gas. Falling prices meant he no longer had to weigh the economic need for hydraulic fracturing against the anti-fracking crowds he saw at numerous public events.

2. The Nov. 4 election ended. Running against a Republican who strongly favored fracking, the Democratic governor sat on the fence, kept his options open and won. It seems logical to put off a decision with such political consequences until after the voting is over.

Could the timing have had nothing to do with these two political factors? Possibly, but delaying this decision certainly paid off for Gov. Cuomo. Again, we agree with it, but its timing suggests once again how slick and strategic an operator our governor is.



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