Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wasn’t in a ballroom Wednesday night at Buffalo’s Hyatt Regency, across the way from the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York’s annual meeting of members as he was originally scheduled to be.
The governor was right at their dinner table.
A large steely-eyed image of Cuomo, projected onto a screen, stared down upon industry leaders as they dined and statewide GOP chairman Ed Cox later derided the governor for his inaction in lifting the state’s de facto moratorium on natural gas development by deep-well, horizontal hydraulic fracturing during a roughly 40-minute keynote address.
“Any reasonably knowledgeable person in New York’s political world knows that Cuomo’s official position is pure political posturing,” said Cox, who called the governor’s decision “a huge political blunder” in deciding not to “end the moratorium immediately.”
Cuomo has insisted the state would await the results of a health impact study about hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” by the state Health Department as well as further evaluation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation before making any move to allow the process.
Cox said because of Cuomo’s inaction, the gas industry found other places “to invest, explore and develop ... human and physical infrastructure.” He said “environmental Luddites” narrowed in on Cuomo and New York “as their last, best hope to slow the growth of the natural gas industry,” even after more than 30 other states have permitted the practice.
Meanwhile, several dozen environmental activists assembled on the Main Street side of the Hyatt to protest Cox and his message. Local environmentalists argue that Cox – and the fossil fuel industry – are “engaged in a public relations effort to rush New York State toward a dangerous energy policy that is bad for the people and economy.”
“Gov. Cuomo has repeatedly stated that the science will dictate any decisions made on fracking,” according to a statement by Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “This is the only responsible path and must continue.”
Upwards of 100 industry leaders who attended Wednesday’s annual meeting – that concludes this afternoon at the Hyatt – beg to differ.
They say New York State and its citizens have paid a costly economic price in development, jobs and tax base because of the state’s reticence to allow fracking.
“The message is New York is not ‘Open for Business,’” said S. Dennis Holbrook, who was the chief legal officer for the Hamburg-based office of Norse Energy Corp. until the company finally shuttered its U.S. operations last month in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Holbrook has long maintained that the company’s extensive investment in New York directly contributed to its demise when the state delayed approval of fracking.
After shelling out about $250,000 per month for land leases waiting, Norse went broke.
“It wasn’t the geology, it was the political geography,” said Holbrook.