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Environmental hysteria hurting state's economy

With gasoline prices hurtling toward $4 a gallon, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter has again demanded that President Obama release some of the government's stockpile of crude oil to force the price down.

Slaughter attacked the Strategic Petroleum Reserve's appropriation in 1999 when gasoline's price was $1.23. It's kind of knee-jerk for Democrats, particularly those in New York where folks are so patriotic about their environmental sensitivities.

New York's two Democratic senators jumped in, as always, on this latest call to pull the bung on the reserve. It's a way of deflecting voters' worries about where energy comes from -- like countries run by dictators and fat global corporations that avoid paying taxes to Uncle Sam.

Deflection is how Slaughter, D-Fairport, got away with successfully proposing a ban on drilling for oil and gas in the Finger Lakes National Forest. Extraction is proceeding nicely in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania.

In 2005, she and then Sen. Hillary Clinton also amended the law to ban oil and gas drilling on the U.S. side of Lake Erie, although Canada has had drilling platforms on its side of the lake for generations. The conceit exploited here is that Canadians and Pennsylvanians are indifferent to filth. The price of gasoline then was $2.

The ability to separate in the public mind the inseparable link between the drill and the pump is a finely honed skill mastered by Democrats and their friends in the professional environmental establishment. That's why hardly any progressive cares that Obama has banned drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast, or is planning to remove by decree millions of acres of federal land from exploration. This, with unemployment at 10.2 percent, and underemployment more than 20 percent, according to Gallup -- about the same as a year ago.

In New York, we see new aggressions against new forms of hydrofracking for energy. The state's Democratic leadership has imposed a ban on new permits until a government study is completed July 1. No attempt will be made here to sift the science of this process.

However, industry sources say that 1,200 new wells in Pennsylvania and West Virginia produced $1.7 billion in tax revenue and 57,000 jobs as of 2009. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said little about lifting the ban in New York. But if he does, about 500 new wells a year could be drilled, bringing billions in economic growth to a financially threatened state.

Cuomo would be bucking hysteria generated by the environmental lobby and media predicated on the myth that drilling is new and dangerous. The fact is that there are already 13,000 oil and gas wells in New York.

Attempts to increase electrical energy service to New York are also threatened by touchy-feely litigants. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce listed a dozen projects in limbo. Two are wind farm projects in the Adirondacks, and in Genesee County. Among the opponents are bird lovers who, like the opponents to the high mast-and-cable plan for the Peace Bridge replacement, believe that birds are dumb.

The biggest project on ice is the 190-mile, $2.1 billion Regional Interconnector transmission line between Oneida and Orange counties. This project was withdrawn in 2009 because of opposition by a local Democratic congressman and advocacy groups.

An advocacy group called the Coalition for Economic Justice and environmental concerns are among the reasons for cancellation of Verizon's $4 billion data center in Niagara County. That field in Somerset is forever safe for soybeans thanks to the coalition, the lawyers and the fog-bound courts.

New York became a great state because it harnessed natural, as well as human resources. The question now is: Has New York, in addition to its tax burdens, become too cultured and too litigious for economic development?

e-mail: dturner@buffnews.com

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