Friday, March 1, 2013

Keystone XL and New York Fracking Delays

David Blackmon, Contributor Commentary on public policy issues affecting the oil and gas industry Energy | 2/28/2013 Keystone XL and New York Fracking Delays - "Mass Hysteria!" You really have to give the anti-development movement credit: It has been extremely effective in sowing indecision, uncertainty, and media-fed hype about some of the most benign, safe, and effectively-regulated industrial processes and projects this country has ever seen. The two most obvious current examples are the ongoing, seemingly endless, indecision by Governor Andrew Cuomo and his regulators on whether to allow natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in New York State, and the ongoing, seemingly endless, indecision by the Obama Administration about whether to allow the construction of the northern leg of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. In both instances, we have chief executives dithering like fiddling Neros, unable to make what in a sane world would be complete no-brainer decisions in their efforts to pander to a small group of radical anti-development activists, whose “leadership” of b-list actors and crackpots like to sit in trees to obstruct pipeline projects or chain themselves to the fence in front of the White House in order to get arrested before fawning TV coverage. It is truly quite a special achievement in the realm of obstructing human progress. Were there an awards ceremony for this sort of activity, these celebrities and activists would be strutting down the red carpet, and Joan Rivers would be critiquing their clothing choices. As it is, they must come by the attention they crave in more difficult, unorthodox ways. Take the case of Keystone XL: This is a project that would create thousands of well-paying jobs, and which has been through the most stringent regulatory pre-approval process to which any proposed pipeline has ever been subjected. In its 10,000 page Environmental Impact Statement, the State Department – which has final approval authority over the project – admits that Keystone XL “would have a degree of safety greater than any typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current regulations and a degree of safety along the entire length of the pipeline system that would be similar to that required in high consequence areas as defined in the regulations.” Scary emissions numbers related to the Canadian Tar Sands oil Keystone XL would carry trumpeted by activist groups like NRDC have little credibility. And they would be irrelevant to the debate in any event, given the fact that this oil will be produced regardless, and it will either be refined and used in the United States or – as the Canadian government has made crystal clear – in China, where refining and emissions standards pale in comparison to U.S. standards. Obviously, the Earth’s environment will be far better off if the oil is refined and used in the United States. Also, if the oil is to be used in the US, transporting it to refineries via the Keystone XL pipeline is far preferable from an emissions and safety standpoint than the only viable alternative, which is by rail. If these anti-development activists were truly concerned about the environment rather than the simple obstruction of human progress, they would be climbing trees and chaining themselves to fences in SUPPORT of Keystone XL. So too goes the absurdly hyperbolic debate over allowing hydraulic fracturing in New York State. Despite all the media hysteria ginned up in recent years about the “Fracking” boogeyman, hydraulic fracturing has been around for 67 years, and is without question one of the safest and most effectively regulated industrial processes this nation has ever known. Were Governor Cuomo’s decision-making process based on facts and sound science, a decision in favor of allowing hydraulic fracturing would have been made years ago as a matter of sound public policy. Instead, the decision-making process has dragged on interminably and has come to be dominated by baseless fright scenarios and petty, largely partisan political considerations. This is too bad, since a state whose unemployment rate still lags the national average could really use the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact that would be generated by development of the portion of the prolific Marcellus Shale formation that underlies much of the southwestern quarter of the state. The main fright scenario used by the anti-development activists has been to gin up fear about the supposed possibility that “fracking” poses a threat to New York City’s unfiltered supply of drinking water. Like so much of the nonsense these groups put out, this scenario is irrelevant, given that the most promising areas of the Marcellus lie outside of the recharge zone for this water supply. The truth is that this is an area of New York that desperately needs the economic development and jobs the Marcellus would bring. If you want to know how desperate, you don’t have to believe me – you can read this piece by Chenango County landowner Victor Furman, one of many thousands of New Yorkers whose personal welfare is being negatively impacted by these activists and the lingering indecision of the Cuomo Administration. Neighboring Pennsylvania’s economy has vastly out-performed New York’s since 2008 for one simple reason: Pennsylvania’s then-Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat like Gov. Cuomo, did not dither and did not pander to radical anti-development activists when it came to the development of the Marcellus Shale in his state. The lesson for New York should be clear, but continues to be obscured in the disinformational fog generated by these activist groups. It all reminds one of the famous scene from Ghostbusters where Aykroyd, Murray and Ramis warn that fictional New York City Mayor of what will befall the City of he doesn’t use their services: “Fire and brimstone raining down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!” Trouble is, this isn’t a movie comedy, despite the involvement of all these b-list celebrities. This is real life, and public policy delays that are negatively impacting the livelihoods of millions of Americans. Seldom has so much bad public policy been generated over so little by so few. You really do have to give these enviro-troglodyte activists a lot of credit.


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