New York’s ban on hydraulic fracturing is great news for environmentalists, but horrible news for those living upstate who are seeing their economic opportunities fade as the state government closes the door on drilling.
A recent report by the state comptroller found that while New York added 538,000 jobs between 2009 and 2014, virtually all of these jobs were concentrated in New York City. The Southern Tier, on the other hand, has been suffering. This is the region where most natural gas operations would be occurring had it been allowed by the state government. It didn’t, and now people are losing jobs and hope.
“The Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Central New York and North Country regions all experienced employment declines over the five years, with lower rates of total wage growth,” the comptroller’s report found, adding that overall labor participation in the region was falling as well.
Earlier this year, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo finalized a state ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, over concerns it would contaminate state water supplies and worsen air quality. Ironically, Cuomo’s ban came after the federal EPA said there was no “evidence that [fracking activities] have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”
Cuomo’s fracking ban was supported by environmentalists and New York City-based B-list celebrities, like Yoko Ono and Mark Ruffalo. Fracking opponents celebrated the ban when it was finalized, but while they go back to their city condos, people actually living in the Southern Tier have to find ways to make ends meet.
“The Southern Tier is desolate,”Jim Finch, a supervisor for the upstate town of Conklin, told a local Fox News affiliate. “We have no jobs and no income. The richest resource we have is in the ground.”
Finch and others have supported a movement among Southern Tier residents to secede from New York and become part of Pennsylvania, where fracking is lifting up local economies and lower income taxes have allowed businesses to thrive.
“We’re comparing the taxes in Pennsylvania compared to those in New York,” Finch said. “There’s a great, great difference. Right now, we are being deprived of work, jobs and incomes.”
The border between Pennsylvania and New York has been compared to the “Berlin Wall” because of the stark prosperity on one side, versus the economic stagnation on the other. For years, resident and the petroleum industry were optimistic that Cuomo would allow fracking to occur in the Southern Tier. But those hopes were dashed last year when the governor announced he was directing his government to ban fracking.
Upstate New York continues to feel the pain of high taxes, mounting regulatory burdens and no access to the natural resources under their property. The state comptroller’s report found that upstate is losing out on manufacturing and petroleum industry jobs.
“Manufacturing jobs declined by 5 percent in New York over the five years, as compared to growth of almost 3 percent nationally,” according to the report, adding that “the large increase in domestic oil and natural gas production over the past five years contributed to this significant employment growth at the national level.”
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