None of the shale gas townships voted for him. Not one. There’s nothing there worth fracking – not now at current prices, in most of Upstate, not never. No jobs, no taxes, just hot air. For Wall Street ? They’ve already gone belly up on frack stocks and frack junk bonds. For some fracking lobbyists ? They backed his opponent. For a long shot at the White House ? Over Elizabeth Warren’s dead body. His political upside to approve fracking is more limited now than ever. There is almost no science that suggests it’s anything but America’s most hazardous, deadly and radioactive energy source. Which is why I don’t think he’s going to approve fracking. You heard it hear last.
Not One Well is putting on the push to get Governor Cuomo to go against type and prohibit hydrofracking of shale in New York. If he did that, he’d be a shoe-in for the Goldman Environmental Prize, the Nobel Prize and a big hug from the Pope.
It would be great if he did, but we need to do a little contingency planning if he does not ban fracking statewide.
The good news is that there probably won’t be many shale gas wells in New York to contend over. The Geology Gods have smiled on the fractavists in that regard (even though even that has brought frowns to the faces of some fracking hypochondriacs). Personally, I have nothing against methane as a molecule. It just has some baggage that has given it a bad rap among environmentalists, scientists, health experts, etc. – for good reasons.
But assuming that the Good Governor does approve fracking – in some limited way – the dynamics of actually drilling any productive shale gas wells in New York are constrained by several factors; to wit:
1. Geology – At best New York is very marginal for dry shale gas in the Marcellus. Although less well understood (no pun), it’s certainly marginal for dry gas in the Utica as well. So you are talking about maybe a dozen townships along the borderline in Broome County, maybe Delaware, and maybe Tioga. The only permit applications that are left in the queue that a financially viable (if not geologically viable) are Exxon’s. That is not likely to change. And the locations of some of those are extraordinarily problematic. And will be contested.
You may think I’m wrong about this, and if you want to bet me a steak dinner with all the trimmings and a bottle of a fine Finger Lakes red at the Otesaga Hotel, I will be happy to take you up on it. And eat the steak(s), laughing with my mouth full. Come on frackers, step right up, take the challenge !
2. State Fracking Regulations – Guess what – there aren’t any.The proposed fracking regulations missed their expiration date, and will have to be revisited – in public. After they are adopted, the NGOs will sue to block them, pretty much guaranteed. There is no state severance tax on oil and gas in New York. Nor is there any autonomous environmental oversight of fracking. It would be like fracking in Eritrea. Assuming there was something worth fracking in Eritrea, which there’s not.
3. Local Regulations – Where the shale might be productive, there aren’t any fracking bans. This has not escaped the attention of the politicians who would punt to Home Rule in lieu of a state ban. But since shale gas industrialization is a hazardous heavy industrial process, the townships or the landowners that lease would be challenged either by local residents or by environmental NGOs – for the failure of the town to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.
4. Lawsuits – The state’s fracking regulations will be challenged in court, as will the permits, as will the towns that allow fracking, as will the landowners that lease as will the frackers. And we’ll all find out that New York has more lawyers than productive shale gas. By a factor of a few thousand.
The Governor may approve fracking as a kind of “FRACK U” to all the fractavists that have been nipping at his heels for years. Which would be unfortunate. After all, he has protected the state from what’s been a Fracking Wild West Show just about everywhere else. So for that, we’re grateful.
The landowners sued him and didn’t vote for him – after he did them a big favor: the ones that wanted to get fracked 6 years ago by the likes of Gastem or Norse Energy would have taken a caning – both economically and environmentally. So you’re welcome landowners.
Or, instead of caving to the frack lobby, he can be a hero to the Pope and millions of good people all around the nation and the world. Which is something to be. We’ll find out soon enough.