Niagara Gazette — President Barack Obama’s two-day bus tour of upstate New York — extending into Scranton, Pa., for a short time — has created an embarrassing dilemma for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Obama is pro-hydrofracking, the process of extracting natural gas by drilling down several thousand feet, using a mixture of water, sand and chemicals, to blast away the rock. One of the biggest deposits for the rich resource is the Marcellus shale that covers some 48,000 square miles including parts of northern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier in New York.
So while Cuomo shows up for the official presidential welcome in Buffalo, he has no intention to accompany the Chief Executive to other communities (e.g. Binghamton) where the anti-fracking protesters are expected to have their voices heard. The governor has been basically ducking the issue, claiming that he will remain neutral on the subject at least until the state health commissioner releases the findings of a study that has been delayed for almost a year. At present, New York has a de facto five-year moratorium on drilling.
NO VALID GRIPE: Some callers to a local radio station talk show were sounding off about Obama’s itinerary for his upstate tour. “I think it’s just awful that he has no plans to visit Niagara Falls,” a caller complained, adding that he was ignoring “one of the seven natural wonders of the world” (By the way, it’s not).
This isn’t some junket White House staffers have organized to boost business for Duff’s Chicken Wings or Charley the Butcher’s famous roast beef. The president’s whirlwind tour is to focus on the escalating cost of higher education and encourage an all-out effort to deal with that mounting crisis. The appropriate backdrop for the Obama tour to four cities still struggling with battered economies, despite hopeful signs of recovery: Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton and Scranton, Pa.