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Upstate Boon

May 7, 2010

With the continued decline of the economy and a mass exodus of young people, the burden of paying for government services has fallen on fewer and fewer taxpayers in upstate New York. Local governments have increased property taxes to compensate for the loss of revenue, which in turn drives out more people and businesses. It’s a downward spiral.  

A big part of the answer is promoting economic growth, but the state can’t seem to act even when there are obvious opportunities. One such opportunity involves production of natural gas. There are significant reserves in the geological formation known as the Marcellus shale band, which stretches across much of the Southern Tier. In fact, experts say there’s enough underground gas to supply the entire nation at current consumption rates for 14 years.

New technology has made extraction of this gas feasible. It can be a great boon to landowners and businesses throughout the region. But the state has sharply restricted drilling for fear that it will contaminate drinking water reservoirs. State officials have been influenced by some in the environmental community who warn that people’s tap water could soon ignite.

The answer, as always, is balancing economic and environmental goals. There’s got to be a way to allow extraction and protect watersheds. Other states and provinces do it, and so can we.

There are now thousands of pending applications for natural gas operations in the region. The DEC needs to find a way to identify and prevent projects that could threaten a water supply, while letting the other projects that pose little or no risk proceed.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. hughctaylor permalink
    May 8, 2010 5:15 PM

    The cataclysmic expense of a contaminated NYC watershed dwarfs the economic development upside of drilling. This is a cost/benefit equation, and the math doesn’t add up for drilling. We are looking at potentially hundreds of billions worth of environmental damage compared to hundreds of millions in job creation. The “balance” between economic development and environmental concerns you evoke is most often a socialization of externality costs: a private company makes some many, and the public pays 10x to clean-up the mess left behind. This is case with most extractive industries, which have a tendency of producing spectacular environmental destruction. The examples are plentiful, from Colorado’s Climax Mine contamination to our current spectacle in the Gulf of Mexico.

    • May 10, 2010 10:01 AM

      Hugh,

      Sincere questions for you:

      Is it really a situation where we must either accept a total ban on drilling or face cataclysm?

      If so, that doesn’t seem right to us. Logic dictates that some percentage of the current backlog of 1,500 project applications should be allowed to proceed, no?

      Isn’t the science of hydrology fairly well established? Can’t it help us identify those projects that involve little or no risk?

      Is there no way to proceed with the utmost caution?

      NT2

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