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Cuomo Decision May be Near on Hydraulic Fracturing

By Tony Farina

Sooner or later, and it may be this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going to have to make up his mind on fracking.
This still from the anti-fracking film "Gasland" casts serious doubts about the safety of fracking. Conversely, if it were safe, it could make America largely independent of foreign oil importation.
Chances are Saudi Arabian King Abdullah both opposes fracking in New York State and would be glad to support it in his own country.
Yoko Ono leads the charge against fracking.

The long-running debate over whether or not New York State should allow hydraulic fracturing — the controversial technology to extract natural gas from underground rock formations — is picking up steam these days as another deadline is looming later this month on completing new rules that would govern the practice.

In fact, the state Department of Environmental Conservation may tip Gov. Cuomo’s hand about the coming Feb. 27 deadline if it releases an extensive environmental review on Wednesday, Feb. 13, that is required to be made public at least 10 days before a so-called “findings statement” by the DEC could be completed.

The DEC publishes an official bulletin each Wednesday, making Feb. 13th the final Wednesday that would meet that requirement for the deadline to be met at the end of the month, according to The Poughkeepsie Journal.

But deadlines have come and gone before for nearly a year as Cuomo weighs a final decision — and the political risks for a possible presidential candidate---on whether to permit New York to get into the fracking business which is strongly opposed by environmentalists led by Yoko Ono, widow of ex-Beatle John Lennon, concerned with potential health dangers.

Cuomo is also under intense pressure from the drilling industry that has long eyed valuable natural gas deposits in the Southern Tier, along the Pennsylvania border. It was in neighboring Pennsylvania that Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula made most of his billions in the fracking business, and he then pitched the technology to Western New York legislators in 2011 after he bought the hockey team and became a local star himself. If anything, Pegula certainly is an example of the money that can be made in drilling for natural gas. (Editor’s Note: Pegula has left the business.)

But Ono, who lives in New York, has begun running a television spot challenging Cuomo’s refusal so far to ban hydraulic fracturing, and the ad includes film clips from the movie “Gasland” that shows gas-infused tap water catching fire.

The ad also contains the following lines: “Tap water too toxic to drink or bathe in.” Also, “60% of wells leak over time: And they’re too deep to fix.” Cuomo officials, as they do on many controversial issues, have declined requests for comment.

The process of hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground to break apart the rock formations and release the natural gas. Scientists have expressed concern that chemicals used in fracking could pose a threat, either underground or when waste fluids are handled, and sometimes spilled on the surface.

The New York Times recently obtained a copy of a state Health Dept. analysis that found that fracking could be conducted safely, but a spokeswoman for the DEC said the analysis in the Times’ possession is nearly a year old, and will be substantially changed and would include more material on health issues.

It remains to be seen if that updated material will be included in the extensive environmental review that could be made public on Wednesday, Feb. 13th, signaling a final decision from the governor could come by the end of the month. But the DEC is not commenting and many observers are not certain Cuomo is ready to take on this controversial issue just yet and may kick it down the road again.

Meanwhile, the pressure is building as business interests are pushing Cuomo to join the fracking boom and create new jobs for a state that badly needs some good economic news. But Ono and environmentalists won’t give up easily, and could make serious political trouble for the man who many believe wants to be the next president of the United States.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 12 , 2013