Friday, July 15, 2011

An Announcement for Andrew Cuomo on Hyrdaulic Fracturing

Click here for my notes on this speech.

In late June, the Department of Environmental Conservation released a report recommending guidelines for the safe drilling of natural gas in New York. When writing this proposal the paramount concerns of the agency were the health and well-being of all New Yorkers, as well as the safeguarding of their lakes, forests, and streams. I have complete confidence in the Department. I trust them with the safety of my family and neighbors and have no reason to doubt their impartiality or intentions.

However, this report has quite understandably provoked strong feelings among the people in our state. They have made those feelings known with their phone calls, petitions, and rallies. They have written letters and performed in exactly the manner prescribed by our democracy. The issue for our state government today is not whether the DEC has made a proposal that will properly guard our drinking water. They are the experts we rely on; the Senate and Assembly are filled with politicians, not geologists and ecologists. The issue for us is whether this proposal has the full confidence of New Yorkers and whether the public thinks drilling is prudent. It’s clear they are unconvinced. No matter what happens in the scientific debate it is our duty to listen to the people that have entrusted in us the guardianship of their environment and their natural resources.

There’s no denying the incentives for drilling. Natural gas could bring billions of dollars to this state and provide jobs for those out of work. It has fewer climate-altering emissions than oil and coal, and helps remedy America’s reliance on foreign oil. But before we green-light drilling we need to be absolutely clear that the actions of private businesses on private property cannot encroach on the public good. That’s why today I announce the creation of an executive commission charged with studying the additional steps needed to guarantee public safety and confidence as well as to examine what tools are needed to ensure the fullest enforcement of current and future environmental laws.

This panel will be free from politicians and any possible business interests. It will be composed of New York’s best scientific, economic, and sociological thinkers and it will answer solely to my office. I think it is only right that we double and triple check the science before allowing any activity to take place on the ground and New Yorkers overwhelmingly agree. The gas beneath our feet isn’t going anywhere; there is no reason to rush towards an unsafe decision.

We must make sure not only that the right framework of laws are put in place, but also that they are followed. Quite frankly, this industry has shown that it is incapable of self-regulation. Just ask the people of Alabama and Oklahoma, where Halliburton and BJ Services admitted to using diesel in their fracturing fluid after promising not to. We cannot risk lives on the basis of corporate promises, and that’s why one of the primary missions of this panel is to determine what resources are needed for the DEC to properly police this industry. My instructions will be clear: the natural gas industry must be forced to pay the entire cost of its regulation. They can’t come in, endanger the population, and expect New Yorkers to pay for it.  Additionally, a list of all chemicals involved in the so called “fracking fluid” must be disclosed to the Department. There will be no trade secrets when it comes to the safety of our citizens, and on that I will not accept any negotiations. If this price of entry is too great for the industry they will have to make due without drilling in New York.

This commission will have as long as they need to make their set of recommendations. When they provide a report which satisfies the requirements I mentioned and those recommendations are passed into law by the legislature I will be willing to lift the moratorium on drilling. But this will not happen a moment before we are convinced of our safety and the affordability of regulations. I truly believe there is a safe way to go about this. Other states have demonstrated the high cost of cowering to industry demands and rushing through this decision; let’s learn from those mistakes. Let’s have a plan in place that protects not just our drinking water, but also our air, lakes, streams, and rivers. These resources are priceless, and I reject the idea that any amount of economic benefit would justify their destruction.

Let’s lead in the twenty-first century by recognizing the mistakes of the twentieth. The future for New York is bright and we will show the entire country that economic growth doesn’t have to compromise environmental stability. Together we can protect the natural gifts that have been handed down to us and ensure they are passed on to our children in the same condition they were received. I look forward to continuing to hear from New Yorkers on this matter, and I hope that the actions announced today help to calm some of their concerns.

Thank you.

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