Ecocentric

As Obama Visits Upstate New York, the Fracking Debate Takes Center Stage

While the President might want to talk education on his visit to upstate New York, there will be no escaping the war over fracking

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Activists protest fracking in New York state in 2012. Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to make a decision on allowing fracking

President Obama is planning to tout his education plan when he visits upstate New York this week, beginning with an appearance in Buffalo today—but much of his audience is likely to be interested in only one subject: fracking. Obama has, for the most part, been in favor of using fracking—more properly known as hydraulic fracturing—to exploit the country’s huge resources of shale natural gas. In his 2012 State of the Union speech, Obama pledged to “take every possible action to safely develop” natural gas, promising that shale gas would add hundreds of thousands of jobs to the economy. And he’s been true to his word—the U.S. produced in 2012 8.13 trillion cubic ft. of natural gas from shale deposits, which requires fracking, nearly double the total from 2010, and the Energy Information Administration projects that by 2030 that figure could pass 14 trillion cubic ft. While the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department are working on possibly stronger new national regulations of fracking, for the most part the natural gas industry has had its way under Obama. He may not have intended it when he entered the White House in 2009, but Obama really has been America’s “driller-in-chief.

That’s exactly why protesters are likely to be out in force tomorrow in Buffalo, and even more so when Obama continues his visit to Binghamton, NY. Fracking remains controversial throughout the U.S., thanks to concerns over potential water contamination and pollution from wells, as well as fears that the new supplies of natural gas will bind the country more permanently to carbon-heavy fossil fuels. Ground zero for that emotional debate is New York state, which has both a massive potential reserve of shale gas and a determined community of environmentalists and activists working to ensure that fracking never happens in the Empire State. “We’re going to be present in Binghamton by the hundreds, if not the thousands,” Walter Hang, the head of Ithaca-based Toxic Targeting, told WNYC.

(MORE: The War Over Fracking Comes to the English Countryside)

In New York so far, environmentalists have been winning. For the past five years, the state has had a de-facto moratorium on fracking, while New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has carried out an extended review of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, and more recently as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner, Nirav Shah, reviews the health effects of fracking. There’s no word of when that will end—Shah told reporters back in May that a recommendation on fracking could be issued within weeks, but that has yet to come. While just across the border, drillers in Pennsylvania produced 1.5 trillion cubic ft. of natural gas using fracking through the first half of 2013, fracking is still on hold in New York as Cuomo makes up his mind.

Unlike Obama, the governor has said he’s neutral on fracking, but it won’t escape notice that Cuomo won’t be accompanying Obama to Binghamton on Friday, a town at the heart of the fracking debate in New York. (Binghamton enacted a municipal moratorium on fracking—one of a number of New York towns to do so—though the ban was struck down by a state Supreme Court justice last year.) Earlier this week Cuomo told The Capitol Pressroom, a public-radio program, that the President’s “point that fracking has economic benefits, energy benefits for this country—that’s inarguable.” But he questioned the environmental cost of the rush to shale gas:

Every area that has participated in fracking will tell you that it’s increased commercial activity and it has an economic boost effect. The question is: Is there a cost to the environment, et cetera? And that’s what has to be assessed and that’s what has to be weighed and that’s what we’re going through now.

(MORE: The Administrator: New EPA Head Gina McCarthy Has the Toughest Job in D.C.)

So fracking will remain in limbo in New York, much to the consternation of the gas industry and upstate residents who want to make money off drilling on their land. Last week Reuters reported that Chesapeake Energy, one of the biggest players in the shale gas industry, was willing to walk away from disputes leases in New York, in part due to frustration over the slow pace of regulation. The New York public seems to be largely split on fracking—the Siena Research Institute reported in a poll on Aug. 29 that support for approval of fracking was at 41%, while opposition was at 42%. But they do tend to be passionate—just 12% of respondents said they had no opinion, almost half the number from last fall.

Cuomo will be up for re-election in 2014, and there’s been talk that he could run for the White House in 2016. The fracking debate puts him in a difficult spot.  Supporting natural gas could help him appeal to conservatives who tend to want to see more drilling for domestic gas and oil. But environmentalists, especially in New York, have made fracking a red line—and as Obama will likely see in Buffalo and Binghamton, they’re not shy about letting politicians know what they’re feeling. New York, much more so than other states where fracking has already gone forward, has a motivated, wealthy and well-connected opposition to fracking.  Approving fracking could well hurt Cuomo in 2014 and in a Democratic presidential primary in 2016, where there will be added pressure on candidates to take strong stands on climate change and the environment. But denying it could be harmful in a general election—as Obama has shown, even a Democratic President usually needs to be seen supporting domestic energy, including oil and natural gas

So maybe it’s not surprising that Cuomo seems to be taking the maximum amount of time to make up his mind—he could lose politically no matter what he does. Obama can relate—his decision-making process on the controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline has been drawn out for much the same reason. Still, while Cuomo might be able to dodge the fracking debate this week, he’ll have to make a decision eventually. And no matter what Cuomo decides, he’s going to have to deal with some very unhappy New Yorkers.

(MORE: Carbon Regulations and Keystone Silence: Previewing Obama’s Climate Speech)

37 comments
DavidPerotto
DavidPerotto

Ellen,

Your comments are without merit. Making wild claims about fracing killing people doesn't make it so. If this were actually happening, the complicit media would communicate it to the entire world. But, the reality is fracing does not kill. Not even close.

EllenMayfield
EllenMayfield

Obama and his fracking pale-horses target states and regions with low self-esteem. "Here, want a little money in exchange for making this entire area permanently uninhabitable and poisoning towns with railroads, as the fracking liquid dries into radioactive dust and blows into the air? Also it's in your water, food, clothes, basically EVERYTHING. Water, which you need to live, now kills you. Sound like a good deal?"

EllenMayfield
EllenMayfield

There is nothing to debate about fracking. Unless you want to bring up some B.S. falsified research or fake studies conducted by corrupt, greedy scumbag fracking barons.

Fracking fills the water supply with carcinogenic and radioactive chemicals that don't go away on their own. There is no other SIDE. Unless you're in love with death, and want your descendants to be diseased and dead from cancer.  Or maybe you're just another opportunist during a period of significant moral decline. 

You think you're safe from fracking, wherever you are? Think again. It won't only kill those in rural areas. It will kill your children and will kill your children's children. It won't stop there. It will hang like a plague over future generations who will curse and deify this administration for all time's end as the bringer of death.

As far as jobs, fracking companies only hire their friends and people with specific experience with perfect driving records and credit. In other words, more opportunists from out-of-state.

Obama has sold-out his home-state and earmarked it for mass extermination. 

Guidelines and laws 'regulating' fracking are a joke. Fracking sites are a comedy of errors, spills and miscalculations. This is humanity killing itself with Obama' s blessing.

solardowork
solardowork

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Department of Justice

Office of Public AffairsFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASETuesday, August 27, 2013Laboratory Operator Sentenced to 40 Months for Fabricating Industrial Wastewater Results

Tennie White, the owner and operator of an environmental laboratory located in Jackson, Miss., was sentenced in federal court late yesterday to 40 months in prison in connection with her conviction for faking laboratory testing results and lying to federal investigators, announced Gregory K. Davis, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, and Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

White also was sentenced to three years of supervised release to follow her prison sentence and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and a $100 special assessment.  White was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate at the federal courthouse in Jackson, where he also presided over the May 2013 trial of the case.

“Independent laboratories play a critical role in assisting businesses to accurately monitor and report discharges of industrial pollutants that may adversely affect the environment,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher.  “Businesses cannot fulfill this important responsibility if these laboratories are not honest brokers and falsify test results and monitoring reports.  This prosecution shows that fraudulent testing and reporting by laboratories will not be tolerated.”

MacRuari
MacRuari

@Despeluqueeria "gringos", in the US, is derogatory. I politely recommend that you find a new word to use for describing white Americans.

jonbowermaster
jonbowermaster

@bryanrwalsh Obama talked with 2 Cuomos while in NY (Gov Andrew and CNN Chris) and somehow no one brought up fracking. Surprised?

JoanneCorey
JoanneCorey

The Siena Poll referenced above shows that among upstate residents opposition to fracking is stronger - 47% opposed, 42% in favor. Binghamton and Broome County of which it is county seat (and where I happen to live) are important because we have had a front row seat to development in PA and have seen the problems it has caused both environmentally and socially. We have new neighbors who moved from PA to NY to escape drilling. We have also gained some new farmers who came to NY so they could have frack-free land for their crops and livestock. Our area is adding to the domestic energy portfolio, but in fields like solar research and advanced hybrid technology.

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

IN CAPS ....FOR THE BENEFIT OF SENIORS TO READ/SEE BETTER....EXCEPT FOR MANTISDRAGON THE JACKANAPE

OBAMA THE MOSLEM PRESIDENT WHO VIOLATED HIS OATH OF DEFENDING AND FOLLOWING THE CONSITUTION IS AGAINST FRACKING.......HE IS FOR BRACKING YOU IN THE BACK.....HE WILL NOT APPROVE THE CANADIAN PIPELINE AND GIVE JOBS AND PROSPERITY TO THE AMERICAN CITIZENS.......HE WANTS THEM TO SUFFER.......LIKE HIS KENYAN ANCESTORS UNDER COLONIAL RULE....HAVE YOU CITIZENS FIGURED THIS ONE YET?.......READ HIS BOOK......"DREAMS FROM MY FATHER".....YES .....TO TAX YOU TO THE GROUND.....WHILE HE AND HIS FAMILY LIVE LIKE AFRICAN TRIBAL CHIEFS......SPENDING TAXZPAYERS MONEY VACATIONING......EATING......TRAVELLING.....PLAYING GOF.......STEAKS.....LOBSTERS.....WHILE TO THE PEOPLE......BROCOLLI !!!!!!!

EDUCATION......THROW MORE MONEY AT THE STUPID MORONS WO CANNOT READ OR WRITE......THEY STILL CANNOT READ OR WRITE.......BECAUSE ......SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST NOT INTERESTED IN SCHOOL.......AND .....YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE......

VALENTINE, WORLD ISTORIAN....COMEDIAN.....LO,....

stan9161130
stan9161130

It is ironic when we voted for Obama, we thought he would be a new type of leader.  It turned out he is as conventional as conventional goes.  

Fracking is heavy-handed, chemicals-fueled and water polluting technology.  Once aquifers are polluted, they are polluted.  There are no way to clean them up.  

There are numerous cases of ordinary home owners who leased their places for tracking.  They have born witness for what direct damages have done to their water, health and ground.  

Fracking must be stopped before further damages occur.

VictorFurman
VictorFurman

Cuomo blocks fraking in NY he will never get to the white house unless Chris Christy invites him

VictorFurman
VictorFurman

The problem is with every delay on the decision to frack or not the lies get bigger and the liars get stronger! Today Ex governor  Patterson said Cuomo is between a rock and a hardplace 40,000 NY jobs would be created Patterson admitted but the activist keep reporting on water pollution. The problem is the pollution they are reporting on are lies that have been debunked by the federal and state goverments in every state drilling. If you let the lie fester like Cuomo has then the liars gain momentum.  It is time for Cuomo to quit playing with the lives of upstate NYkers with endless delays. Make a fracking decision. .

grandmasthinking
grandmasthinking

Dear Pres:  It is long past time that you include all the data and scientists at your table instead of the predominant corporate moguls of the oil and gas industry.  We will be reminding you every day:  ban fracking!  The destruction of our health, environment, water supplies and our children's' future depends on it.  No energy that poisons and destroys is worth it.

meddevguy
meddevguy

I live in New York and like my Governor enough that I wish he would run for the top job in the country in 2016. I also have natural gas heat, but think it is fair that if my state doesn't want to contribute to our energy independence, then we should be "taxed" by states like Pennsylvania by sending them bigger profits and us higher prices.

The folks who want to go back to a simpler agrarian society where we ban all fossil fuels, and energy generated from that source, should have the right to drop out and have their families live their lifetimes within walking (or horseback) distance from their birthplace. They would grow their own food, and provide heat in the winter (for a single room, of course) by burning wood.

I mean, why should neighboring states take the dire, emergency, certain pollution risks that our "Anti-Fracking" friends would push on them without suffering the consequences? Oh forgot -- "wind", "Solar".

BruceStrong
BruceStrong

I'm not at all surprised that the president wants to get out of Washington... Please name one issue that's working for his administration!

stan9161130
stan9161130

@VictorFurman If truth to be told, Fracking will be such an unpopular business.  Now, the politicians get away from supporting fracking because the mainstream media has been slow in reporting this harmful technology and general public, as usual, have not waken up from realizing the harmful effects fracking have already caused.

So Cuomo if continuing his moral courage will be admired by the public, thus having a fair shoot for White House.

Just don't be discouraged, brainwashed and misled by the PROFIT-DRIVEN Natural Gas Industry.

stan9161130
stan9161130

@VictorFurman   This posting simply followed the natural gas industry's playbook, spreading rumors to mislead the general public.  Water pollution caused by fracking is not a lie, it has been proven numerous times by home owners who leased to the natural gas industry and regretted later on once they saw what harm has caused them.  

Also, home owners realized there as another downside of leasing their home to the natural gas industry--the value their home would be decreased.

stan9161130
stan9161130

@SueRapp2 @KarlaFisk @bayonnebernie @TIME 

That's why we should applaud those anti-fracking citizens.  They are advocating for the public health against the most powerful industry.  Every concerned citizen should join force to protect our water and our land.

VictorFurman
VictorFurman

@SueRapp2 @bayonnebernie @TIME  NY can't ban fracking they are the 3rd largest user of natural gas in the world and alreadfy have over 70 thousand exsisting gas wells most in wine country

stan9161130
stan9161130

@meddevguy No, it should be the other way around.  We, New Yorkers, want to lead the way to fight for banning fracking nationwide.  If those who, in other states, are complacent--allowing fracking to happen at their backyards, then they have to pay their own prices.  

Some for-fracking postings are likely the hired guns of the natural gas industry who, by all means, only have their interest in mind, while anti-fracking citizens are the truth protectors should be praised.

mhny
mhny

@meddevguy... lol... oh, forgot?  

Wind power is cheap ( http://cleantechnica.com/2013/08/11/us-wind-power-prices-down-to-0-04-per-kwh/ ).  Solar is getting cheaper every year ( http://cleantechnica.com/2013/07/28/what-0-36w-solar-means/ ).  They even enable property owners to become more energy independent, not just from foreign fossil fuels, but from energy companies entirely.  

Wind and solar also do not come with all the issues that fracking does ( http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org/our-programs/fracking/whats-wrong-with-fracking-2/ ), in particular the water contamination as shown in a recent study by the University of Texas ( http://blogs.star-telegram.com/files/uta-water-study.pdf ): "Analyses revealed that arsenic, selenium, strontium and total dissolved solids (TDS) exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) in some samples from private water wells located within 3 km of active natural gas wells."


The correct choice is clear.  Transition ahead to a cleaner, high tech, renewable energy society.

EllenMayfield
EllenMayfield

@VictorFurman @bayonnebernie @TIME THEY PUMP MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF CONTAMINATED WATER INTO THE WATER TABLE. DO YOU THINK THAT JUST STAYS IN ONE PLACE. DOES WATER HAVE A TENDENCY TO GO EVERYWHERE? THINK WITH YOUR DAMN BRAIN. 

stan9161130
stan9161130

@VictorFurman @bayonnebernie @TIME But where they want to frack is the source of our water that flows to the city users.  So, it doesn't mean it is "far away," it is no consequence for city dwellers.  It has a serious consequence to pay if we don't stop fracking.

stan9161130
stan9161130

@mhny @meddevguy Yes, since you are so in loving with tracking.  Why not leasing your home or moving to a place close to tracking, then drinking the water right there everyday.  Also, if you have children, let the children drink those underground water close to fracking site too.

stan9161130
stan9161130

@VictorFurman @stan9161130 

Doesn't need to go that far.  You could just move to the fracking site with your children and drinking the ground water daily for as long as you live there.  If you are willing to do that, then you can encourage others to follow you. 

stan9161130
stan9161130

@VictorFurman @stan9161130 @bayonnebernie @TIME 

First of all, the scale of the fracking intended by the natural gas industry is no precedence.  Secondly, Gasland I & II don't play tricks.  They are fact-based documentary, showcasing ordinary people's dilemma once they allowed fracking in their backyard.

VictorFurman
VictorFurman

@stan9161130 @VictorFurman @bayonnebernie @TIME Stan   we have over 70,000 verticle gas wells in NY that means over 7 billion gallons of frack fluid has been injected into the earth and not once in those 70 years has a source of public water been contaminated by fracking. you watch gasland it it looks horrible but Josh Fox used theater tricks and lies to make it so