By Kristen Lombardi
WAWAYANDA, N.Y. — In 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a bold statement by banning hydraulic fracturing in the Empire State, declaring alongside his health commissioner that “no child should live near” a shale-gas well because of its potential harm.
The governor’s proclamation made him a hero among environmentalists and persona non grata in the oil and gas industry. Energy in Depth, an industry-funded website, criticized Cuomo for basing the moratorium on dubious science “to kowtow to Yoko Ono, Mark Ruffalo, and all of the environmental pressure groups in New York.”
In truth, though, the picture is murkier, and Cuomo’s ban is less than absolute. Moratorium notwithstanding, New York is still reaping the rewards of fracking, importing shale gas from neighboring Pennsylvania and preparing to process it in a mammoth power plant under construction 65 miles northwest of New York City.
“It goes to the heart of the apparent irony that New York State would say, ‘No shale gas coming out,’ but we’re allowing any amount of shale gas into the state,” said Anthony Ingraffea, an engineer at Cornell University whose work has tied fracking to various environmental ills, including climate change. By his calculations, drillers outside the state would have to tap 130 wells each year, on average, to supply the plant with enough gas to operate. That translates into thousands of fracked wells over the 40-year lifetime typical for such a facility.
“I’m using the polite word ‘irony,’” Ingraffea said. “I could also use the impolite word ‘hypocrisy.’”