The War Between the States was fought not over the issue of slavery, but over the issue of whether states have the right to regulate economic and social issues within their jurisdiction or if they must succumb to legislation mandated by the federal government and applicable to the entire country. Similar questions are being raised today over gay marriage and hydraulic fracturing.
Should hydraulic fracturing for the recovery of natural gas from shale formations be regulated by individual states where drilling activity is occurring, or by energy czar Carol Browner and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson? Nowhere is the battle waging more fiercely than in the state of New York.
Several months ago we reported that the state Senate in New York had called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state. We later learned that the impetus for that moratorium was being funded by George Soros. Most recently we reported that the state Assembly had passed the moratorium and sent it to outgoing governor David Patterson for signature.
He vetoed it. Patterson vetoed a moratorium on all natural gas permits in the state through May 15, and issued an Executive Order banning fracturing of only horizontal wells, until July 1. Recognizing the economic negatives of staying all natural gas activity, the order permits fracturing of vertical wells, but bans the fracturing of horizontal wells until July 1. He further ordered the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to complete its drafting of regulations regarding horizontal well hydraulic fracturing by June 1, and to accept public comment for no less than 30 days.
As we have explained in great detail before, here, most of the issues that concern New Yorkers involve water – fracturing requires a great deal of it, it must be treated before being released or reused, and there are those who claim that the fracturing process threatens drinking water sources. Curiously, Patterson’s logic would suggest that the only issue is the volume of water used, as vertical wells pass through drinking water aquifers, thus imposing the same “threat” to drinking water, and they require the same process and the same minute quantities of lubricity improvers and “propants” to fracture the shale. They require identical waste water treatment and disposal methods. They just require smaller quantities than do wells that are turned horizontally and extended such before they are fractured.
So, what did Patterson accomplish other than to anger the environmental left while protecting some elements of an important economic engine in his state?
He bought himself some time.
He kicked the can down the street.
As noted, Patterson is leaving office soon, only to be replaced by a liberal Democrat, Andrew Cuomo, who offered no comment other than that all Executive Orders from the Patterson administration were subject to review.
So the battle over hydraulic fracturing will continue in New York. While we’re skeptical of the objectivity with which the process will be studied there, we acknowledge and applaud that state’s right to conduct that study, for we would rather see the individual states affected by the opportunity make their own decisions than have them mandated by the federal government, where ideology outranks logic, economics or Constitutionality.