Environmental advocates and anti-frackers are doing a victory lap after news came that New York state officials are likely to further delay any decision about the controversial gas drilling practice.
This may, indeed, be a good thing. After all, if one has to choose between getting it right and getting it done quickly, the former is clearly the way to go, particularly when it involves the health and welfare of millions of people.
What we fear, however, is that this latest delay is not out of concern for the health of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s constituents, but rather the health of his political career.
It would be naive to suggest that any decisions that get made about fracking in Albany could possibly escape the taint of politics. But it is particularly frustrating to see such a monumental decision get kicked down the road until after the November election. New Yorkers have been waiting for four years to see the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s regulations that would govern horizontal hydraulic fracturing, and it’s fair to say that everyone is a bit antsy.
In theory, there is nothing wrong with further study. Horizontal hydrofracking is a complex issue, and the technology that allows drillers to extract gas from shale continues to evolve. But no one (not Cuomo, and not the DEC) has been able to explain exactly what new information the state expects to collect.
After the tens of thousands of comments the DEC already read on the subject, what is it still waiting to hear from the public?
Cuomo told the New York Times “Let’s get some facts and data and some science, and we’ll make the decision on the science, which is what should be done here.”
What the heck has the DEC been doing for four years if it hasn’t amassed that data by now?
Cuomo and the DEC owe it to New Yorkers to shed a little more light on this latest delay, which looks for all the world like it’s being orchestrated by a career politician who’s just felt a noticeable shift in the wind and is changing tack accordingly.
Of course, Cuomo will still have to face the issue, no matter what happens in November. But he may hope to be able to sneak a decision through at a moment when there are fewer eyes on Albany. (Perhaps at 4 p.m. on Black Friday, for example.)
We’re not necessarily in a rush for the DEC to make its decision. But the agency and the governor’s office could both benefit from greater transparency. Taking it slowly is fine. Just tell us where it is that we’re going, and how we’re going to get there.