Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken energy development “off the table” in New York, reversing state policy dating back into the 19th century.
This change in policy “shelved” the three-year study by competent professionals in the state Department of Environmental Conservation that had drawn up tightly regulated requirements for energy development in New York.
Clearly, the governor listened to the voices that opposed energy development over the voices from the chronically stricken poverty region of the Southern Tier.
The victory dances by those that consider the governor’s ruling a win are short-sighted. Perhaps they believe that the 30-some-odd states that produce fossil fuel energy are “poisoning their citizens,” while we in New York are reaping the benefits from their “environmental degradation.”
I choose to think that the anti-development crowd is not interested in facts as long as the gas tank can be easily filled and the thermostat will respond to the touch from unknown energy supplies.
Currently in the news are hearings concerning the final permit process to construct a gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to the Capital Region. There is no government funding involved, and probably the $600 million project will create more than a few construction jobs. The pipeline would supply natural gas to the existing distribution system and countless public, corporate and government facilities.
The proposed pipeline is important to long-term economic development and preventing an energy emergency during a cold winter. But the pipeline must be buried in the ground. Therefore, it is being protested by many, even local officials. Can’t the bigger picture of need be seen?
A related matter concerns the oil trains that recently have been routed through the Capital Region. Like it or not, the state, national and world economies are based on fossil fuels. This is reality and I support alternative energy source development. This will not change in our lifetime, or even in our grandchildren’s lifetime.
A component of Northeast energy needs is contained in these “oil trains.” This results in safety concerns and redevelopment of the port facilities in Albany. Nobody wanted this, but approval for the international crossing of the Keystone pipeline 2,000 miles away is being denied by President Obama.
The result of that decision is that this area must deal with the “oil trains” in order to satisfy the Northeast’s energy needs. The self-appointed “protectors of the environment” are not serving the greater interest of the nation by opposing the Keystone pipeline crossing.
Thinking back over the years, I remember the protests about constructing the Adirondack Northway (I–87). The protesters feared that the rock cuts would drain the scant groundwater resources.
Those responsible for the planning of that project knew that such concerns were without merit, and the federal and state authorities moved the project forward.
Construction did not deplete groundwater resources, but did rapidly increase property values and economic development in the North Country.
Another example is the planning and construction of I-88, a major connector between the Capital Region and the Southern Tier. This project forever consumed many acres of prime farmland.
I recall protesters, not concerned over the loss of farm acreage and the savings in travel time and energy, but only the disruption to the several communities along state Route 7. Again, the protesters were wrong, and I believe almost everyone agrees that the project has benefited the entire region.
One final example. The protests of the Rotterdam Square Mall were very strong 30 years ago. I worked beside the engineer that evaluated that project under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
Those that protested forcefully presented concerns about pollution of the aquifer and the project’s flooding potential. The unwritten agenda of those protesters was fear from competition by this proposed development.
Time proved that aquifer pollution never occurred and flooding was never an issue. All projects have an economically useful life. Perhaps we are seeing the end stage of this once very controversial project.
We live in a representative democracy and enjoy the freedom to protest, and that is a good thing. But leadership compromised for political purposes is not a good thing. Such leadership does not serve the best interests of the general public.
The failures to approve energy development projects are examples.
Russ Wege of Glenville is a retired engineer.