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By Tony Farina

Fracking Decision Delayed Again

Much to the delight of anti-fracking activists, the Cuomo Administration has once again delayed making a decision on the controversial process to extract gas and oil trapped underground in shale rock that is being pushed very hard by the drilling interests.

That latest deadline (Wednesday, Feb. 12) came and went last week when the State Health Department said it needed more time to study the health impact of hydraulic fracturing, further delaying the release of the state’s environmental impact study.
The environmental report must be completed before the state can draw up new drilling rules on fracking, a process that injects a mix of water, sand and chemicals into a well under very high pressure, causing cracks in rock formations which allows oil and natural gas to flow. Some scientists worry the process could contaminate ground water and cause risks to surrounding air quality.

The latest Cuomo delay was cheered by environmentalists led by Yoko Ono who wrote “We love you, governor,” in a public email.

But while the environmental activists were cheering the umpteenth delay, a pro-fracking group, the Joint Landowners Coalition, is planning to sue the Health Department on grounds the delay was a “de facto taking of property rights.” It could be the first of many legal battles over fracking.

Maybe Cuomo, who is believed to have both eyes squarely fixed on the White House, would be best served politically by letting the courts handle the fracking Issue, and avoid making a decision that is bound to be very controversial no matter which way he goes.

For now, like the fight over gaming rights that has crippled Niagara Falls, the fracking war is in a state of uncertainty and any drilling for gas and oil in the rich Marcellus shale region along the Southern Tier border with Pennsylvania, is not likely to happen soon. But don’t expect the drilling industry to lose this fight.

With so much money at stake, it’s only a matter of time.

Bills Still Don’t Get It at QB

On the matter of the Buffalo Bills, there was some bad news over the weekend, in my view.

New coach Doug Marrone, signed from nearby Syracuse University after a nationwide pro and college search of about two days, said he wants Tarvaris Jackson to compete with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting quarterback job.

Is this guy for real? Didn’t he see the guns on display in the Super Bowl game? Neither Jackson nor Fitzpatrick are going to take the Bills anywhere and if they don’t find a free agent QB or draft some college kid with a strong arm to build for the future, the team is going to go in the tank again.

So much for marketing whiz Russ Brandon taking over the team for 94-year-old Ralph Wilson. The Bills have a new (rich) deal to play “home” games in Toronto, signed a coach with very little NFL coaching experience (i.e. cheap), and are talking about two proven losers competing for the starting quarterback job.

I’m sorry, fans, but I just don’t think much will change at the old stadium except a few fixtures, courtesy of the taxpayers and the new lease deal.

If Fitzpatrick, a proven loser at this level, is back at the helm, there’s little hope this team will end their 13-year playoff drought this year or any time soon.

We should note for the record that the NFL Scouting Combine is this week, and unfortunately for the Bills, they may have to search hard to find a QB gem in this year’s crop. But other teams have faced similar problems in the past and still managed to find a sleeper in the crowd. The Bills’ record at finding sleepers is not very good. Witness the team’s won-loss record of 29 - 51 since 2008.

NACC Needs Beer Money
The Mayor’s wife’s beer store.

The Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, which lost $30,000 in public support recently when the Niagara Falls City Council voted against the appropriation in this lean budget year, will hold its largest annual fund-raiser on Friday (Feb.22), the somewhat controversial Art of Beer event.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 after Thursday, and include food and beer samplings from over 20 local restaurants and breweries (and will include products sold by Niagara Tradition, a beer brewing supply store owned by Mayor Dyster’s wife, Rebecca).

The NACC is hoping for a big turnout to offset the loss of public funds.

The arts center appears to have strong local support for its programs, but with the city facing extreme budget pressures, a great deal of public support will be needed to make up for the loss of the public assistance.

State of City Is Dismal
Glenn Choolokian leads the council majority. They required cuts to frivolous spending, like beer festivals.

If the public needs any reminder about the state of the city, dial up State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s recent fiscal profile of the Cataract City and it is clear that Niagara Falls is in deep water.

The report states: “Although the City’s failure to receive planned casino revenue has significantly impacted its current fiscal condition, Niagara Falls’ problems are chronic in nature. At a population of 50,193 in 2010, Niagara Falls is literally less than half the city it was in 1960. During the first half of the 20th century, cheap hydroelectric power generated by the Niagara Falls Power Project attracted manufacturing plants and workers. At its peak in 1960, Niagara
Falls’ population was 102,394. The City’s decline has been nearly as precipitous as its rise. By 2010, Niagara Falls had lost 51 percent of its population, the largest drop in population from 1960 to 2010 for any city in New York State.”

If you need more, here it is: “Niagara Falls’ median income of $31,452 is well below the State average of $55,603 and below that of the median city ($37,607). Its poverty rate is higher, with 17.6 percent of its families living in poverty, compared to 10.8 percent statewide.”

And, Niagara Falls ranked high in crime, with the FBI statistics for 2009 ranking the city fourth in violent crimes per capita and second in property crimes and crime overall among New York’s cities.

It’s certainly good to see the City Council tightening the purse strings to avoid any tax increases on this struggling city population, and it’s also good to see money being spent on protecting people by putting more police on the street. Let’s hope the NACC and other groups can find ways to raise money to support their programs, and not depend on this nearly bankrupt city to carry them.



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

Feb 19 , 2013