Live, from New York, it’s fracking policy absurdity

Two bits of news out of New York over the past couple of weeks have spotlighted the contradictions, inconsistencies, and lack of logic that are characteristic of anti-drilling arguments.

The first came in late June, when the state officially imposed a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing. Widely seen as more of a political move than sound policy, it was a product of bad science.

Much of the rationale was based on research out of Colorado that attempted to link fracking and birth defects. But here’s the problem:

Colorado regulators rejected the study and its findings. The day the report was made public, Dr. Larry Wolk, head of the Colorado Department of Public Heath and the Environment, warned that the public could be “easily mislead” by the research; that health officials disagreed with many of its “specific associations”; and that researchers ignored factors other than natural gas drilling that could have affected the findings.

Bad science aside, Joseph Martens, head of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, said in a statement accompanying the formal ban that fracking poses “significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources.” Apparently, he didn’t get the memo about a new study from the Environmental Protection Agency that basically confirmed the process, done right, is safe.

(Not incidentally, Martens left his position shortly after the ban was put into place. He went back to work for an environmental organization that received money from the Park Foundation, an under-the-radar group that has financed anti-fracking initiatives across the state.)

But when the fracking ban is combined with the second piece of news, it becomes painfully clear just how farcical New York’s policy is.

Shortly before the prohibition was formalized, the state released its 2015 Energy Plan– a plan that actually touted natural gas consumption and forecast that its use in power generation would increase 32 percent by 2030, to 554 trillion Btu.

It also said that New Yorkers have seen their power bills decrease because of gas usage and that lower commodity prices for natural gas could cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2.4 million tons.

So, New York’s Energy Plan notes that natural gas consumption will keep increasing and says that gas delivers tangible environmental and economic benefits. Yet the politicians and their activist allies have successfully implemented a ban on the process that has made those advantages possible, instead opting for imports; 97 percent of the state’s supply comes from other producing regions.

In other words, New York is supporting job creation, increased tax revenues, and economic investment in other states at its own expense. It makes no sense.

Once the New York fracking ban was put in place, it started a 120-day clock for filing lawsuits challenging the prohibition. There is some agreement that at least one challenge will likely emerge. If policy absurdity were actionable, there would probably be a lot more.

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