Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 13, 2013

Cuomo's new title is 'Hamlet on the Shale'

Niagara Gazette — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo must have winced Wednesday when he glanced at the New York Times article that stated he was becoming 'Hamlet on the Shale.'

It was an obvious reference to Shakespeare's character known for being overly analytical and indecisive. In this case, it's all about Cuomo's apparent reluctance to push the agenda on the thorny issue of hydraulic fracturing, the drilling system to extract natural gas from rock formations like the Marcellus Shale that extends from the Appalachians to the Southern Tier of New York. The controversial process has been under review for the past couple of years — even before Cuomo was sworn into office — so the disappointment and frustration over the delay is somewhat understandable. 

In an effort to explain the additional delay, state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav R. Shah said his agency was still reviewing the potential effects on health from the drilling. Since that report is unlikely to be completed by the deadline this month, it may be necessary to start the overall regulatory process again. That  would mean another 45-day comment period.

Initially, the governor had cited hydraulic fracturing as a potential factor for creating jobs and promoting economic development. 

An editorial in the New York Post on Wednesday noted the coincidence of Cuomo's decision to delay action on the fracking issue and the same-day ad in the DesMoines Register warning him not to approve such drilling in New York. The Register is published in Iowa, the traditional launching pad for the presidential primaries. The Post  editors also asked if there was any better evidence that Cuomo's interests in fracking lie not in what it might mean for New York's depressed economy but what it could mean for his chances in the 2016 presidential race.

Despite the latest delay, Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said New York could still decide to grant gas-drilling permits relatively quickly if the Health Department study puts to rest concerns about harmful effects to the water supply or other risks to the environment.  

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