The following is a commentary on natural gas development in New York. It was written by Bob Poloncic, chairman of the Vestal Gas Coalition in Vestal, Broome County. It appears in this morning’s Times Union:
There’s a wall along New York’s southern border that’s dividing us against each other. Built with fear and misinformation about natural gas development, this hollow wall casts a shadow over our economic future. But with little foundation in reality, it can’t stand up to mounting evidence of the safety and widely shared benefits of a responsible local natural gas industry.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised a science-based decision, and the reliable science is in. Yet the wall still stands — propped up by politics and blocking opportunity where it’s needed most.
Patient Southern Tier residents must stand up for their rights and demand action: Gov. Cuomo, tear down this wall!
Despite more delay to study “unknown” health effects of shale gas development, state officials have known the facts for months. A Feb. 2012 review from New York’s Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah states that “significant adverse impacts on human health are not expected from routine HVHF (hydrofracking) operations.”
Contrary to every significant charge leveled by opponents, the unreleased review finds that “the state’s proposed regulations would prevent any potential health risks from air emissions, water contamination, and radioactive materials unearthed during the drilling process.”
The proposed safeguards under the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement are even stronger.
Concerned about economic health?
According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics for 2001-2011, employment in Broome, Tioga and Chemung counties declined by 8.6 percent. But just over the Pennsylvania border in Susquehanna and Bradford counties, it increased by 5.2 percent.
From 2008 to 2011, as gas drilling activity surged, total wages paid rose by 28 percent. In the Southern Tier counties, wages were stagnant. In 2012, Bradford County government received $8.4 million in tax revenue from gas production, enabling a 5.9 percent cut in 2013 property taxes and a 4.5 percent pay raise for county employees.
Worried about climate change?
Experienced researchers, including Cornell’s Lawrence Cathles, conclude that replacing coal with clean natural gas for electricity production will significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions over both the short and long term. It has already reduced U.S. carbon emissions below 1995 levels.
Experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report in the journal Environmental Research Letters that claims of potential increased warming from escaped gas at well sites rely on an “unreasonable assumption.”