Monthly Archives: December 2013

Emphatically indecisive on hydrofracking

Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 10:57 am

By Jim Eckstrom Olean Times Herald Olean Times Herald | 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shown that when he whiffs a scent of political gain, he can be decisive.

He proved that never more clearly in early 2013 when, in the aftermath of the unthinkable Sandy Hook elementary school massacre by an insane, young shooter, he orchestrated his backroom gun-control legislation known as the NY SAFE Act. Virtually overnight, law-abiding gun owners and recreational shooters across the state found themselves subject to several new regulatory conditions that combined to make New York’s gun laws some of the most restrictive in the nation.

Gov. Cuomo, who considers not just how his policies will effect New Yorkers, but how he can gain political capital nationwide as he considers a run for the presidency, believed the SAFE Act was a “win” for him in scoring points for 2016 with his liberal Democratic Party base.

Far less decisive has the governor been in handling the dicey political decision of allowing — or not allowing — hydraulic fracturing practices to drill for natural gas in New York state.

Gov. Cuomo on Monday said he might decide whether New York should allow hydraulic fracturing for natural gas by Election Day next year, according to the Associated Press. He cautioned that he doesn’t want even that time estimate to pressure his staff into a hasty recommendation to lift or make permanent a 2008 moratorium on fracking to tap gas deep in shale deposits.

The dilemma the governor faces is that by keeping the moratorium in place he further frustrates upstate landowners and businesses eager to get into the shale-drilling game. Despite all his efforts in attempting to bring attention and economic-development funding to upstate and Western New York, the fracking moratorium remains as a roadblock to jobs and revenues in a region that can surely use them.

Gov. Cuomo would love to receive a strong vote in 2014 in more-Republican upstate New York, thus demonstrating mass appeal before the 2016 Democratic primaries. But with the SAFE Act and its after-effects looming larger than perhaps he bargained for — it was interesting that in the Associated Press story the governor did not include the SAFE Act on his list of fast-tracked accomplishments — the fracking moratorium could also undercut his overall popularity upstate.

Yet he has his downstate liberal base to answer to — the base that would see a lifting of the moratorium as a major betrayal. It’s something like the tea party effect on conservative Republicans (is Gov. Cuomo liberal enough?) but far at the other end of the political spectrum.

So the governor is simply “kicking the can down the road again,” said Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York. He said Pennsylvania and other states have prospered from drilling in the same Marcellus Shale while New York has hesitated, prompting companies to move on to other states.

In an ironic twist on the overall issue, the governor announced Sunday the $150 million repowering of a Dunkirk coal-burning power plant — to cleaner-burning natural gas. He says the announcement portends nothing in regard to his stance on fracking in New York.

Meanwhile, Scott Waldman of writes that fracked gas has already spread throughout New York state and is being used to heat homes and other residential needs.

“A new pipeline recently connected to New York City brings in natural gas obtained by fracking in other states and has the capacity to heat 2 million homes a day,” he wrote. “In the last year, 1,100 large buildings have switched to natural gas from oil.”

Mr. Waldman cites info from National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella in writing, “It’s impossible to say exactly how much of the gas now used in New York comes from fracking because it is mixed in with gas from other sources, including the Gulf of Mexico. … But it’s inarguable that the energy grid is becoming more reliant on gas fracked in other states. (Mr. Stella) said bills across some upstate communities have been reduced as a result of abundant domestic energy supply.”

Yet to many environmentalists, no fossil fuel can be a “good” fossil fuel.

So Gov. Cuomo bobs and weaves, turning to natural gas to keep the Dunkirk plant operating — and saving hundreds of Western New York jobs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions from a coal-fired plant — but denying the potential of horizontal fracking development and attendant revenues throughout central New York and across the state’s Southern Tier.

One expects to see more such gyrations in the coming months and years from a governor whose vision extends far beyond Albany.

(Jim Eckstrom is managing editor of the Olean Times Herald and executive editor of Bradford Publishing Co. His email is

I can’t wait to see what Cuomo will do now

Posted December 10, 2013 by alanchartock

Everybody was waiting to see what the governor’s anti-corruption Moreland Act Commission would come up with. The idea was to trace the money, no matter from what source, to see if there was endemic corruption throughout New York state government. The governor made it clear that he thought there was. To find it he chose some of the best minds in New York including a group of district attorneys charged with fighting crime in their counties, towns and villages. The governor’s instructions were to follow the money no matter where it was. To make sure that the Legislature was covered Attorney General Eric Schneiderman deputized the members of the Moreland Commission which is empowered under the state constitution to study the executive branch only. With Schneiderman’s help jurisdiction of the group was extended to the legislative branch. No one expected, however, that the executive branch would be left out of the investigation.

So, it was with some surprise when Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney appeared on a television show and announced that the reason that the commission had gone after the legislative branch of government only was that it was never supposed to investigate the executive branch. This was news to many people who had never heard that. No sooner had Mahoney said that then Attorney General Schneiderman took issue and said that no such agreement had ever been made and that the executive branch of government had never been excluded from investigation. However, people like Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Group said that he was surprised at how little attention was paid to the executive branch. This was pretty embarrassing stuff for Governor Cuomo. After all his very healthy campaign account had something like $30 million in it.

The whole point is that no one gives you huge amounts of money who doesn’t want something back for it. This is exactly the kind of legal bribery that Governor Cuomo has been bemoaning. Just a few days back Governor Cuomo had been given a concert by Billy Joel in which the top seats were said to be going for fifty thousand dollars. Now I like Billy Joel’s, music but it sure isn’t worth fifty grand to hear it. Nope, when someone gives you that amount of money they want something. If the real estate industry wants breaks on building luxury Manhattan condominiums and/or co-ops and gets what they want from the government one might surmise that the money they invested in someone’s campaign was well worth it.

In any case the first Moreland Act report is done and is already on the shelf where it is already collecting dust. There are those who believe that this was the game all along. The governor gets credit for taking on the forces of evil but, some are suggesting, he never really wanted a change in the rules. In fact, when the main conclusion of the Commission, calling for a system of campaign financing was announced there were reporters who thought that Cuomo was slow to endorse the recommendation even though he had been proposing it all along. It took him a few breaths to endorse the idea. All of this came after Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News, in the story of the year reported that Cuomo’s agents had been calling in plays to the so called independent commission suggesting who should NOT be subpoenaed by the group. Some of these groups were friends of the governor.

The Moreland Act group says that this first report was just preliminary. Cuomo is to be congratulated for appointing and charging the group with its important mission. Cuomo was swept into office promising to clean up government. So what does Cuomo do now? If Cuomo is suspected of playing it fast and loose he will lose credibility and potential votes. But, if he goes for broke to clean things up, his credibility and popularity will rise. What do you think he’ll do? I can’t wait to see.