Is New York Going to Allow Fracking?

Posted on August 22, 2014
Posted By: Wayne M. Kovach

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was banned in New York state in 2008 to study its effects on the environment. Since then, there have been numerous debates on whether or not fracking would be beneficial for the state. Predominantly, citizens and businesses are against the practice. However, many land owners in the Southern Tier are eager to get paid quite handsomely for the sale of their land to energy companies.

A decision to overturn that ban is currently in limbo. Recently, a lawsuit by Norse Energy has tried to drive the state to reverse its decision. The company's goal is to absolve itself of its $100 million investment in a state that hadn't yet allowed fracking. With large sections of the Marcellus Shale extending into New York from the south, it's obvious why gas companies are frustrated with the lack of a permanent answer from the state's government.

The Governor of New York

Andrew Cuomo inherited the fracking moratorium in 2011 when he became governor. While there have been many attempts by pro-fracking groups to have the ban lifted since then, his environmental commissioner recently affirmed that Cuomo won't issue regulations to allow fracking until after April 2015. Conveniently, this will then only take place after the 2014 re-election campaign for Cuomo, drawing the ire of many people. "Whatever happened to Governor Cuomo's commitment to let science, and not politics or emotion, govern this process?" stated Karen Moreau, executive director for the New York State Petroleum Council.  "The human cost in New York, due to arbitrary delays on this matter, is real."

Despite the current stall of fracking in New York, the state's dependence on natural gas is growing rapidly. Over 1,300 buildings in New York City converted from oil to natural gas in 2013, which was an increase of 300 from the previous year. Mike Ford of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) sees the reality of natural gas procurement in the short term, saying "Natural gas is more apparent in the short term, but in the long-term we see renewables playing a bigger and bigger role." In President Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address, he called natural gas a "bridge fuel" to renewables that reduce carbon pollution compared to other energy sources like coal and oil. One has to wonder if, or when, Cuomo will side with the president and allow fracking in New York.

Pennsylvania Fracks: Why Can't We?

Fracking has been allowed in Pennsylvania since 2004, making it a hotbed of controversy for ten years. Proponents of fracking will defend the process and say that land owners are happy with their newly-found financial security, local jobs are being created, and significant revenue is being generated for the state. Opponents would clearly lay out the increased health concerns, damage to the environment, and lack of sustained growth for the state, other than in the immediate fracking locales.

What cannot be contested is the significance that fracking plays in Pennsylvania's policies and political future. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) is an ardent supporter of fracking who recently announced a desire to end a three-year ban on drilling for natural gas beneath state forests. He hopes to raise $75 million via new drilling leases to help offset a $29.4 billion spending plan. His office asserts that it would not disrupt surface land and would only allow horizontal drilling from sites outside the parks.

Since the state currently only owns approximately 20% of the 200,000 acres, the goal is to sign deals with gas companies prior to them securing gas supplies from under the forests. If the state doesn't have these deals in place, the companies could obtain gas for free. Clearly, not everyone liked the governor's plan. Cindy Dunn of PennFuture, an environmental advocacy group, stated "This will place more and more of the budget burden on the backs of public lands. The governor reveals the short-sighted nature of his stewardship of our natural resources by trading more long-term harm to our state parks and forests in return for short-term economic gain."

Pennsylvania brought in nearly $445 million over the course of two years through leases for forest land. The map below shows the current amount of fracking wells in Pennsylvania.

To Frack Or Not To Frack?

So, how will this all play out? Will New York follow the lead of Pennsylvania and argue that fracking will be able to help the economy? Or will it wait for further research by allowing other states to be the guinea pigs for an industry that doesn't necessarily tell the truth? In either case, the timing of a decision from the Governor's office is suspect at best. Whether you're for or against fracking, resolving the issue after a reelection campaign (under the sole guise of environmental concern) shows a lack of transparency with the people who voted for him.

What are your thoughts?

Authored By:
Wayne has worked as the SEO Specialist for NRG Business – Demand Response since 2012. Holding degrees in Printing and Graphic Design, he spent the previous 14 years at a yellow page publishing company. Wayne's writing interests include coal, natural gas, oil, and new products. In his free time, he enjoys hockey, Canadian music, Scotch, and spending every second he can get with his 4 year old son.

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August, 22 2014

Michael Keller says

My guess is that New York will follow Obama's record of voting "present" and avoid making a decision until such time as the leftist running the state government are voted out of office.

August, 26 2014

Richard Goodwin, Ph. D., P.E. says

Major players like Noble and Anadarko have shown that E&P firms can perform hydraulic fracturing in a responsible i.e. sound engineering manner. When Georege Mitchel retired he warned against wild-catters performing fracking because they often cut corners – creaing problems. Politicians may behave rationally if the issues are jobs and votes – even in liberal states like CO where fracking ban taken off a recent state-wide ballot.. The US Government Accounting Office [GAO] has determined that increased regulations and changes to the fracking process might not be necessary. GAO, however, has determined that EPA has done a poor job of collecting data about fracking and assessing its other impacts. In particular, the agency has not gathered information about the potential earthquake dangers from fracking. This has occurred because information has been collected on a state-by-state basis. The EPA is working on a national database of fracking information, but that database will not be ready for two to three years, according to the GAO. I have been working with USEPA Scientific Advisory Board [SAB] to determine the effect of hydraulic fracturing on water quality. Both exisiting and Greenfield site will be investigated. Greenfield sites offer the best opportunity to study causual effect fo fracing on water quality i.e. establish a background level and compare to operating results. The USEPA has established a Scientific Advisory Board to Review Methodology and Technology mitigating effect of fracking on water quality [I am participating with this SAB]. Also American Society of Testing & Materials [ASTM], American Petroleum Institure [API] etc. have established standard setting committees for drilling, fracking, production water options. During the next two years the efforts of experienced participants should change the way that fracking operations are implemented, managed and regulated. The SAB’s work will continue until 2015 – both existing and grass-roots drilling projects will be monitored. The USEPA continues to issue public notices to communicate progress. As the regulatory community establishes standards for frac water recycling and the private sector commercially offers cost-effective technology, the drillers will be able to implements reuse while expediting their projects and saving money. Please realize that since the menu for hydraulic fracturing chemicals is unique for each geological formation or play this information is considered confidential since an optimized menu would yield greater performance or production of shale oil/gas – providing a competitive advantage. The above technical issues, notwithstanding, on a poltical nore, In CO two initiatives that could have limited oil and gas exploration in the state will not appear on the state's ballot this fall. Jobs and votes in CO support Shale Gas and Oil Hydraulic Fracturing. Combining sound science and economics will persevere over irrational objectives. Please see Goodwin, R.W. “USA Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Evolves and Improves”; Energy Central, May 8, 2014

August, 28 2014

Ferdinand E. Banks says

I dont Believe all of the claims made for shale gas and fracking, but with the right kind of regulations fracking probably makes sense. Frack away, I say, but just don't let them ship the stuff out of the country unless the right amount of Money comes into the country in return.

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