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Posted by on Jan 25, 2010 in Politics, Science & Technology | 54 comments

Whatever Happened to Drill Here, Drill Now?

GasDrilling.jpgMaybe we just dreamed the whole thing? Or perhaps I’ve only now awakened from some sort of alternate reality, Twilight Zone style fantasy. Does anyone else remember the election of 2008 when it seemed like every candidate and their mothers had a plan to address the nation’s energy woes and promote domestic security by making us more independent in terms of energy production? Everyone was staking out a position. McCain had the Lexington Project. Obama had a plan. Hillary had a plan. I’m pretty sure Dennis Kucinich wanted to wrap giant copper wires around the Sears Tower.

What happened? Once the economy crumbled, the election ended and we all decided to fight over health care, it seems like all of those pressing concerns faded away like last week’s fish wrap in the rain. Well, there’s one group of citizens who don’t seem to have forgotten, and they are holding a rally today in Albany, New York, telling the government that they want it to stop dragging feet and start drilling wells.

ALBANY, NY – Landowner Coalitions from New York’s Southern Tier will hold a rally and news conference in Albany in support of the safe exploration for natural gas and to debunk the myths associated with it.

Busloads of landowners, business leaders and scientists will appeal to Albany lawmakers to focus on the facts about natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale, specifically the safe process of hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – releases gas locked in shale by injecting pressurized fluid into the formation to shatter the rock. This process, which occurs deep underground and far from groundwater and surface water, has been performed safely in New York for decades. It will produce efficient, abundant and environmentally clean fuel, increase New York’s energy independence and bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to New York.

This process has been slowed to a crawl in New York, while other states like next door neighbor Pennsylvania have been using this same hydraulic fracturing process to tap into natural gas resources. This has been going on for a couple of years now, even though a report commissioned for the area seeking development concluded that the state’s aggressive groundwater protection laws and environmental protection measures met or exceeded anything the EPA would do, and the development of these resources would bring billions of dollars and thousands of long term jobs to the area. And just when it looked like the finish line was in sight, New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey has introduced the FRAC Act, which would drag the EPA into the process, pushing it back years further.

Hinchey’s likely opponent in the 2010 Congressional race, George Phillips, immediately came out on the side of the landowners.

New York residents are in need of precisely this sort of advantage, yet it continues to be delayed by government interference, such as the proposed FRAC Act, introduced in Congress by Maurice Hinchey. Development of domestic energy supplies is not only an issue affecting jobs and economic prosperity, but of national security as well. Albany needs to listen to these concerned citizens and look at the facts, rather than the myths surrounding hydraulic fracturing. I am determined to keep the federal government out of this process, which would unnecessarily delay progress for years. Maurice Hinchey’s bill is a job-killer for the region and is only standing in the way of economic recovery and job creation.

What have we really done since the last election ended to improve our domestic production and decrease our dependence on foreign energy suppliers? Not much that I’ve seen. If you run on this as an important part of your platform, you should actually do something about it once you’re in office. Unemployment continues to dog us. Wouldn’t it be good to put some more people to work here in the United States producing energy?

(Disclosure: The author is a volunteer on the Phillips for Congress campaign.)