Politicians should not talk about things they don’t understand. Case in point — Republican Marc Molinaro’s support of hydraulic fracturing in New York as part of what he calls a “closely monitored” test program in the Southern Tier.
You know why he is doing this. The person most often associated with the state’s fracking ban is Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his Democratic opponent in this year’s election. For those who do not want to look too deeply into the issue, fracking has always been an attractive bright shiny object, offering energy independence and revenue with manageable environmental challenges.
In truth, it is very hard to frack without having many serious detrimental effects, including earthquakes and water pollution.
The state Health Department made the plausible case in 2014 that there was no way to provide adequate safeguards based on experiences in other states. Since then, the state’s focus has been on a shift to renewable resources, to investments in solar, air and hydro that would take the place of plants fed by any fossil fuels, including the gas that fracking produces. Investing in one means not investing in the other.
Molinaro is misleading people, and perhaps misleading himself, if he believes that a small-scale experimental operation would provide any information that would be relevant to fracking on a scale that might make economic sense.
The danger from fracking does not come from a few sites located far away from populated areas. It comes from the enormous impact that industrial-scale fracking has on the underground aquifers vulnerable to pollution. It comes in the well-documented dangers to wells and other local water supplies that those aquifers supply. And it come in even more dangerous forms in the need to create a massive infrastructure to treat the millions and millions of gallons of wastewater that fracking requires to break rock layers far below ground and then bring the fuels up.
A small convoy of tanker trucks might be able to cart away that waste water from a small experimental site. But for fracking to be worthwhile to those who want to invest, the scale would have to be enlarged to the point where treating the wastewater would be prohibitively expensive.
The Southern Tier, where Molinaro would try this experiment, is too densely populated to allow any room for error and as the number of sites increases, so do the potential detrimental effects.
Having studied and voted on this issue when he was in the Legislature, Molinaro knows or should know all this. That indicates that the proposal is more political than anything else, an attempt to get votes from those who are dissatisfied with Cuomo over the fracking ban. But those people already are not inclined to re-elect the governor, making this a wasted effort that only exposes Molinaro’s desperation as polls show him so far behind that he is not likely to catch up and donors reading those polls hold back, leaving him at even more of a disadvantage.
It’s still early, but so far the main component of Molinaro’s campaign seems to be that his is not Andrew Cuomo, something all of us already knew.