Fred Siegel has a great op-ed at The Wall Street Journal about fracking in New York. Actually, it’s about the lack of fracking in New York, even though the Southern Tier sits atop a treasure trove of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. The area has been in what seems to be a permanent recession, and in some areas a permanent depression, for decades. Manufacturing jobs have dried up, property taxes are higher than ever, and the area could really use an economic boost. The top employer in the area is the government, if that tells you something.
But the liberal elites in places like New York City, and the little socialist city of Ithaca, don’t want fracking. Not only do they not want it where they live, they don’t think it should happen anywhere, even if it’s highly regulated. So they must really hate the people of the Southern Tier, where decent jobs are hard to come by.
In New York, the potential natural-gas bonanza has been stillborn. Political support for fracking came largely from Southern Tier landowners scratching out a living on land much of which has been left fallow. These supporters sometimes referred to the environmental benefits of natural gas as opposed to coal. But their core argument was that fracking offered the only chance to rescue a dying region. Many landowners were being crushed by the heavy burden of New York’s high taxes—among the highest property taxes in the nation—and by regulation that made it hard to eke out a living from small dairy herds.
The landowners have been no match for an antifracking coalition that drew on the liberal well-to-do and celebrities, including Yoko Ono and Richard Plunz, a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, whose primary residences are in New York City but who also own second homes upstate. These better-known opponents have been joined by other progressives, often from Manhattan, in alliance with the liberal gentry of upstate university towns such as Ithaca, Binghamton and Oneonta. Fracking is occurring in 31 states and has been approved for California and Illinois. But in New York, the antifrackers turned opposition to fracking into a litmus test for liberals. [...]
Five years later, the supposedly temporary ban to allow the study of health and regulatory considerations remains in place. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who took office in 2010, last year floated a compromise. The areas near the reservoirs for New York and Syracuse, the liberal gentry of Ithaca and the wealthy retirees of Cooperstown would be able to maintain the status quo. The 100 towns that had passed local bans on fracking would have their wishes respected. Mr. Cuomo would have confined fracking areas to sections of the Southern Tier Counties of Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga. In those areas, the shale is deep within the earth and there are no aquifers—even antifracking activists would have a hard time finding a threat to the water table.
The proposed compromise might have seemed reasonable. But the antifrackers who had demonized the gas industry responded with a resounding, no. At a rally earlier this year, actor Mark Ruffalo, another antifracking celebrity, warned the politically ambitious Mr. Cuomo: “We’ll cream you if you open New York state to fracking.” On Wednesday last week in Albany, the state capital, actress Debra Winger was a prominent speaker at an antifracking protest.
Dick Downey, a retired teacher and fracking supporter living in Otego, N.Y., wrote in his local paper, the Daily Star, in 2011 that “the class divide in the argument over drilling in New York is the elephant in the living room. Everyone’s aware of it but no one is talking about it. It pits generational farmers against the newly arrived, well-to-do pensioners against those just hanging on.”
Read the whole thing, if you can. The liberals in New York City and Albany are bad enough, but the one’s in Ithaca are especially galling. Unless you fly into the rinky dink airport you can’t get to that place without driving through the areas that would benefit the most from fracking. So they have to see the economic hardship around them and just turn a blind eye to it all. I’m sure they’re also big supporters of welfare programs and increases to the minimum wage, which the people of the Southern Tier wouldn’t feel a need for if these liberal elites would just get out of their way. Talk about mean and cold-hearted.
Update: Linked by Iowa Dawg – thanks!