Saturday, November 17, 2012

NYS Fracking, the rush job

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a drop-dead date of Nov. 29 to complete new regulations for Fracking—or, god forbid, we will have go through the review process all over again. Billions of dollars and jobs will be lost if this ‘new boom’ is delayed. At least this is the way the situation is framed in the media.

DOH: fracking review coming One day after saying they could not "speculate" on when a key health review on hydrofracking in New York would commence, the state health department has now announced three university experts have been chosen and will review the data. The state’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, was tasked with hiring outside experts to review health impact data on fracking as the Cuomo Administration continues to study whether fracking will be permitted in New York. (November 16, 2012) North Country Public Radio

But rather than focus on the horse-race to Frack NYS, it would be far more helpful for our media to rule out the dangers this controversial method of drilling natural gas might have on our state’s environment and health.  Objective reporting on the Fracking issue is not a mid-point between the pro-Fracking and anti-Fracking groups.  Objective reporting should present to the public a full description of the present health of our environment, and then assess whether New York State should even consider this idea.  The measure for objectivity should be our environmental and public health, not corporate profits.

FinishLineAl least two phenomena blind many into thinking that this Fracking issue is being once again clogged up and emotionally overcharged by environmentalist: The shifting baseline syndrome and externalities. Both of which mainstream media seem loathe to give serious consideration.

The shifting baseline syndrome prevents us from appreciating the environmental problems that have accumulated over the past couple of centuries due to our short lifetime experiences. Because we haven’t personally witnessed the accumulated degradation of our air quality from burning fossil fuels and centuries of dumping our waste into our rivers, we tend to forget how many environmental challenges our state has already endured and continues to endure.

One gaping loophole in our economic system called externalities blinds us from recognizing the true value of a healthy environment. We’ve created an economic system that ignores environmental costs. It’s why many are blind to anything but the possibility of great financial gain and indifferent to the loss to our environment incurred as industry operates.

Some will leverage these blind spots to promote a very limited view of the relationship between environmentalists and scientists. It is the view that environmentalists are the children and scientists are the adults. That encourages the public to think those who are concerned about our environment are a great big uninformed drag on our economy. And, it allows the press to frame Fracking as just another race coming to just another finish line.

The decision on Fracking should not be just another race. One way or the other, it will transform our existence. We shouldn’t be panting and sweating over November 29th. We should be asking our leaders to lead. Our leader, Governor Cuomo, should be basing his decision on Fracking on our long-term environmental and public health.

Instead of allowing November 29th to become a pivotal point on the most important decision he will ever make as governor, why not just hold off on Fracking for ten years? During this decade, New Yorkers can see for themselves how Fracking will play out in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale. If it’s safe, the Fracking industry will have a chance to prove that.

During this time the governor can show leadership by proving that renewable energy backed up by battery storage, getting the public to practice energy conservation, and creating a smart grid, can solve our energy needs. The governor just stated “We will lead on climate change”. Let him prove that by not giving in to the fossil fuel industry and the mad rush to create unsustainable jobs.

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