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The Forgotten Southern Tier

December 17, 2014

We listened carefully to the Martens-Zucker presentation today. We listened with open minds because we know Mr. Martens and hold him in high regard.

He said one thing that really struck us. He said that New York is a land of environmentally sensitive areas – from the Finger Lakes to the Catskills to the Susquehanna-Chesapeake Watershed – and that risks that might be acceptable in other states aren’t acceptable here.

That’s a defensible position. It might even be a smart way of looking at things.

That said, we can’t help recoiling at the notion that there’s no way for New York to balance economic and environmental goals.

Every other state with developable reserves of natural gas tries, and in varying degrees, succeeds in doing this. But we can’t in New York? We can’t err on the side of extreme caution and create the most restrictive set of regulations in the world?  Apparently not. Apparently, we have no choice but to prohibit it entirely.

Contrary to what the Governor kept insisting today, this decision wasn’t based on science. It was personal and political.

The personal aspect was clear in the Governor’s opening comments. He noted how fracking was the most emotional issue he’d ever encountered. More than gay marriage or the SAFE Act or even the death penalty.

The Governor said: “You talk to people who are opposed to fracking and 30 seconds later they are yelling…”  And then the Governor added, “And the pro-fracking people are the same way.”

On this particular point, the Governor is dead wrong and he knows it. The pro-fracking people of the Southern Tier never got in his face. They never picketed him.  They never dogged him around the state.

That was the playbook of opponents. And you have to hand it to them — they were incredibly effective in organizing and gutsy and determined in their protests.  They broke the Governor’s resolve and they earned their victory.

The degree to which this was political decision was apparent from calls the Governor was making after the announcement. He was telling people that the polling had turned against fracking and that the issue was a loser in New York. In the end, that’s what this was about – polling.

So there will be no fracking in the Southern Tier. All those people who were so upset about that prospect – and who voted for Zephyr Teachout and Howie Hawkins – can relax.

But the folks in the region, well, they’ve been left behind again. As we have written several times before, it’s a sad fact that the Binghamton-Elmira area is the worst performing regional economy in the entire United States over the last decade. Nothing has been done about it. And it appears nothing will be done anytime soon.

There was another stunning demonstration today of how the region is a forgotten land.  The Governor and his people were calling political leaders in the Southern Tier to announce that the region had been selected for a new casino. The Governor’s people said: “You might be disappointed about the fracking decision, but the good news is that you’ve won a new casino.”

The problem, of course, is that the Southern Tier region designed by the Governor for the purpose of selecting casinos included a wide swath of the upstate from Rochester to Binghamton.  The Rochester area won the designation, not the actual Southern Tier. It’s as if the Governor and his people never looked at a map.

Alas, decisions have been made. They may be politically sound decisions by the Governor. He’ll gain support in the environmental community and on the left.  But it bothers us that he caved to the political pressure, and, most of all, it bothers us that he has forgotten an entire region of the state.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    December 17, 2014 7:19 PM

    Well, I’m sure the family approves, especially the ex-wife and former brother in law.

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