Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hinchey and Arcuri Stand Behind It:
The Californication of New York

Two Democratic Congressmen from upstate New York, Maurice Hinchey and Mike Arcuri, signed onto a thoroughly disingenuous effort put forth by anti-drilling activists this week — a demand that New York State throw out its entire environmental impact study on hydraulic fracturing (two-plus years of effort), and start over from scratch.

Arcuri appeared Oct. 25 in Trumansburg — at the most extreme southwestern fringe of his district — where "kill the drill" activists touted him for "a stupendous act of political courage and leadership."

Hinchey did the same deal two days later, Oct. 27, on the Commons in downtown Ithaca — at the most extreme northwestern nook of his long-ago-gerrymandered district.

These highly questionable moves — coming late in the run up to Election Day, Nov. 2 — show that these politicians have calculated they will gain more votes by siding with the most strident, anti-anything side in the Late Great Marcellus Shale Hydrofracking Debate — as compared to the votes they will surely lose by pissing off more and more of their own land-owning constituents.

In this crazy political environment — and to me, I gotta say, it looks as though we are right in the midst of The Californication of New York — they may be right.   But I so hope they guessed wrong, and that the Salt of the Upstate Earth — my kinda people — rise up against them next Tuesday.

Here's why:

Number One, Hinchey and Arcuri are federal representatives, whereas this hydrofracking environmental impact thing has been a state-level drama since the beginning.  It's true that everybody is entitled to their opinions — even good-looking-but-not-very-bright congressmen.  And it's true there are federal angles to the shale gas issue.  But New York's tortured Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement process is definitely not one of those federal angles.  These two congressmen could have just said, "Look, we're federal representatives, and this is a state matter."  But they didn't.  Instead, they chose to go the extra mile in order to please The Ithaca People by butting into a state issue.

Number Two, Check out the mapped coverage areas in my graphic up top for both Hinchey's district, the 22nd of New York, and Arcuri's district, the 24th. Both districts encompass literally thousands of acres which are very likely to be eventually developable for natural gas in both the Marcellus shale and the deeper Utica shale.  Much of that undeveloped shale gas remains unleased, and is therefore 100 percent owned by Hinchey's and Arcuri's own constituents — ordinary landowners, of whatever particular party or persuasion they happen to be.  

Some landowners are all for drilling, and they are patiently waiting for a chance to combine forces in coalitions in order to collectively bargain with industry — whenever, and if ever, industry regains enough confidence in New York State's regulatory environment to make such an offer.  And some landowners are dead set against drilling, and they are free to vote against shale gas development by declining to sign any lease.  (Under the law, anti's need only line up 41 percent of the acreage — in either unsigned obliviousness or unsigned opposition — in order to put a stop to drilling in any particular locality)

And yet — rather than simply riding the usual fence, and saying they are all for careful, regulated drilling, after the environmental issues are thoroughly studied... blah, blah, blah... like you'd expect a politician to do... like future-governor-apparent Andrew Cuomo has done — Hinchey and Arcuri have chosen to take sides directly against the economic interests of their own constituents.

(Am I missing something, or is this nuts?  I mean — what kind of a politician ever does this kind of thing?)

Number Three, the greater community of environmentally persuasive people in New York is at this writing still wailing through Day Seven of the Public Martyr-fication of DEC Commissioner Alexander "Pete" Grannis — fired last week because the commish was not-so-quietly resisting the gov's drive for deeper and deeper staff cuts.  Every day, there has been another story in the papers about how the DEC is so overworked, and how the DEC is so understaffed, and — what with any further cuts — how can the DEC possibly oversee the boom in drilling in the Marcellus shale?  

Never mind that — having refused to yet let any frackers get fracking — very little drilling is actually going on in New York right now.  [Here's the evidence:  1) Zero rotary rigs active in NY in Sept. 2010. 2) Conventional drilling in NY down 44 percent in 2009.]  And never mind that the majority of the folks doing all this hand-wringing over DEC staff cuts are the exact same set of characters who are feverishly working to make sure that New York never allows any new drilling that its regulators would have to do the work of overseeing.

(I know, I know — it doesn't have to make any logical sense — it just has to be persuasive.)

But what do Hinchey and Arcuri say they want?  And what do the anti-drillers say they want?  Together, they're insisting that the DEC throw out its hydrofracking study — a comprehensive, 800-page analysis prepared between 2008 and 2009 by its own professional staff — and start over!

That's crazy talk!

I mean — talk about more work with less staff!

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