Frack Off?!? Et Tu, Governor?

Image: Dreamstime

In New York State, activists are about to hear a loud and resounding “Frack You!!” from the governor’s office. As is the case in other states, both sides of the contentious environmental issue, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking“), are having their say — though it seems that  those of us who want a say in the safety of our soil and the cleanliness of our air and drinking water have less of a say than our corporate counterparts. What else is new…

No matter how much one may attempt to sugar-coat the issue, large quantities of the mix of toxic chemicals used to extract fossil fuels are harmful to the environment and our health. Until we reduce our dependency on these energy sources in favour of those that are cleaner and more efficient to produce, we will be forced to deal with the subsequent impact on our health caused by the methods of fuel extraction.

Oil and gas companies tell us that modern mining technology has come up with ways to minimise the damage caused to the planet, while environmental scientists and activists contend that once the hazards present themselves, the harm done can be irreversible.

So if most of the arguments presented concern our health on the one hand and, on the other hand, environmental safety, what’s the other side of the story? There are always three sides, right?

The almighty dollar. Again, what else is new…

This week, the administration of New York’s Governor Cuomo confirmed that a decision has been made to pursue a plan to open southern-tier counties to hydraulic fracturing. Though New York State currently has a moratorium on fracking, Mr. Cuomo has considered lifting this ban in the past — so his administration’s decision examine the benefits should surprise nobody. State-wide protests, a constant presence outside the Albany capital building and the nuisance of many New York residents with petitions in hand were enough, for a while, to get the governor to rethink his decision. But the issue has not gone away — and it won’t for as long as the fiscal condition of the municipalities is the primary reason for the administration’s decision. And, given that the nation’s economy still isn’t robust, we should expect that the financial health of the local economies will be the key reason as to why fracking plans are pushed through.

What we have, plainly and simply, is the promise of new jobs delivered with a choice. One side presented is that of the past — dairy farms that cannot sustain the faltering upstate economy — versus the future, in the form of those higher-tech shale-shattering and drilling industries. The Cuomo administration has said it will ensure funding and protections for whatever fracking may be permitted and the plans are targeting the most economically impoverished counties in NY. The promise of safety brings with it a projection that fracking in this area of the state could create more than 50,000 jobs.

What about the long-term welfare of the people? Maybe the thinking is that the people who will face the brunt of fracking’s devastation are already suffering so it’s no big deal. *Meh.* The bottom line is that this proposal indicates that the governor is willing to give in to the interests of big oil and gas companies.

At what point do we draw the line? When is it acceptable to sacrifice health and environmental safety for corporate profits? Is there any such thing as a middle ground in this type of issue?

Tell us. We’d like to know.


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