Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Interesting article in NY Post

Gov. Cuomo's state Democratic Party chairman says, "Drill, baby, drill" when it comes to controversial "hydrofracking" to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation on the New York-Pennsylvania border.

And party leader Jay Jacobs, a successful summer-camp owner, has a financial interest in having the drilling take place -- although he insists that it has nothing to do with his support for the hotly contested activity.

Jacobs says he's signed a contract with, and received per-acre upfront money from, energy giant Hess Corp. to drill on some 140 acres of land at his Tyler Hill summer camp, just over the border from New York's Catskill Mountains.



Shannon DeCelle

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: As Albany weighs hydrofracking, Democratic boss Jay Jacobs already has a deal with Hess to drill at his Tyler Hill summer camp in Pennsylvania.




Jacobs, who annually hosts hundreds of kids at Tyler Hill and two other nearby Catskills camps in New York, called the risks from hydrofracking "minuscule."

While Jacobs told The Post he's never talked with Cuomo -- who will soon decide whether to give hydrofracking the go-ahead -- about the issue, he said his own study convinced him it's the right thing to do.

"Many things that we do in modern society have the potential to destroy the environment, and we can't stop doing everything because of minuscule risks. It's when those risks become significant that we have to stop," said Jacobs.

"My belief is if we can extract natural gas, which is a cleaner form of energy, from our land, reducing the import of foreign oil and the cash flowing out of our country, and make for cleaner air, improve the economy and not damage the water, I'm for it," Jacobs continued.

"We have to be rational here, not emotional. If it's going to destroy people's water, I'm against it, too. But I've been led to believe that there are definite ways if you do this right not to destroy the water."

Jacobs wouldn't disclose how much money he's received from Hess.

But he said he entered into a contract with the huge company only after insisting on "tough restrictions" that banned drilling during the camping season and from the immediate areas around the camp buildings and related facilities, including adjacent lakes.

Jacobs said one of his two Catskill camps wouldn't be eligible for gas drilling because it's in the New York City watershed area, which will be excluded from consideration.

He said gas companies haven't approached him about his other camp, although even if they do, he insisted he wouldn't sign a contract because of Cuomo's involvement.

"I want to underscore that I haven't done anything [on drilling] with my land in New York, so I don't want anyone to think I will benefit one way or another [from Cuomo's decision], Jacobs said.

"I've been very careful. I don't want anyone accusing me of benefiting financially from anything I did in New York."

State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens told Cuomo in a detailed report in July that the hydrofracking technique could be safely carried out in most areas of the Southern Tier, as long as strict regulatory oversight was imposed.

Drilling advocates, pointing to Pennsylvania, say it would generate tens of thousands of New York jobs in an economically depressed region and bring in billions in badly needed tax revenues over the next decade.

Opponents, led by major environmental organizations, claim hydrofracking could damage critical watershed areas, although no such damage has occurred in Pennsylvania or in other regions of the country where it's been used.

A 60-day public-comment period on the recommendation begins today, after which Cuomo will render a decision.

fredric.dicker@nypost.com

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