Joe Nocera

Frack, Baby, Frack

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that New York State had written down more than $1 billion worth of development projects in upstate New York, the most prominent of which was a solar panel factory it built for Tesla in Buffalo. The factory, announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013, was supposed to help jump-start the struggling upstate economy.

Around the same time, Cuomo signed a bill to establish four upstate casinos. The casinos, said the governor, would also help the economy, by attracting tourism, and bringing “thousands of well-paying jobs.” It hasn’t exactly worked out that way. These days, the headlines read “Struggling NY casinos cut back on slots,” and “Upstate NY’s largest casino facing bankruptcy.” The Empire Center for Public Policy, a non-partisan think tank, reported last year that upstate New York “has gained private sector jobs at barely one-third the national average.”

Yet there is an obvious solution to these economic woes: fracking. Almost all of New York sits above the Marcellus shale formation and upstate counties also sit atop the Utica formation. If energy companies were allowed to drill in New York, fracking could supply those thousands of well-paying jobs Cuomo hoped to get by legalizing casinos. But of course, fracking was banned in New York — by Cuomo. Which is not to say that New Yorkers don’t depend on fracked natural gas. They do — they just import most of it from Pennsylvania, where fracking jobs are plentiful. Maybe it’s time for New York to forget about casinos and Tesla solar plants, and start thinking about fracking.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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