Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
Hydrofracking OK Would Amount to 'Unfunded Mandate' (Video)

ALBANY, N.Y. — County and municipal leaders opposed to hydrofracking came here Wednesday to argue that state approval of the controversial gas drilling method would be a costly unfunded mandate on rural communities.

The officials cited potential added costs for road construction and maintenance, water supply systems, and public safety and protection. They also cited the potential impact on schools, housing and other areas as a result of sudden population growth and the arrival of mining industry workers. Broader environmental and public health costs remain a question mark, the group’s leaders said at a press conference.

“We call on the state to analyze the cost before drilling starts,” said Martha Robertson, the Tompkins County Legislature chairwoman. “Counties need to know what we are getting into and how fracking will impact our budgets.”

Robertson said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office rejected a request for a meeting on the issue, even though the governor has met with lobbyists for the Independent Gas and Oil Association and the New York State Petroleum Council.

She said communications between her group, Elected Officials to Protect NY, and the Governor’s Office, the state Health Department and the state Department of Environmental Conservation “have been frustrating, with a level of secrecy that leaves us doubtful that our substantive concerns have been heard.

“As the elected partners of state government we would hope for better,” she said.

The group, which claims to have 602 elected officials as members, released a copy of an email received Jan. 25 from Cuomo’s office rejecting a request for a meeting with the governor, saying “he is unable to accept your gracious invitation at his time.”

The group met with Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens back in November, but criticized what members described as “empty assurances” about the state’s review of the hydrofracking permitting process Martens offered them in a follow-up letter in January.

Carl Chipman, the supervisor of the Ulster County town of Rochester, said the Department of Environmental Conservation and Cuomo ignored the potential impact on local communities in the 2011 Ecology & Environment Inc. report on hydrofracking’s impact.

“There is no analysis that the governor and DEC can use to decide whether this industry is going to help or hurt New York’s communities,” Chipman said. “Fracking is a new unfunded mandate on local governments — God knows, we have enough of them. The DEC’s own report said so.”

“Industry data shows that only 20 percent of wells are actually productive,” said Albany County Legislator Bryan Clenahan. “So most wells won’t even yield profits to tax. It’s true that a few people and the corporations will make money, but most of us will clearly lose.”

He called the projections of new jobs and tax revenues for communities where drilling will take place “spin and propaganda.”
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