Fracking ban costs New York farmers

Associated Press

Albany, N.Y. — While environmental groups are doing a victory dance over New York’s decision to ban fracking, farmers such as apple grower David Johnson are grieving for dashed hopes and dreams.

“I’m devastated,” Johnson said after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health and environmental commissioners announced Wednesday that they were recommending a fracking ban. “I have concerns about how to continue this farm that’s been in the family for 150 years.”

Energy companies denied the chance to drill in New York can simply raise their rigs in other states. But landowners in the state’s Southern Tier region who had hoped to reap royalties from gas production don’t have that option.

New Yorkers have watched other states that sit atop the Marcellus Shale — Ohio, West Virginia and neighboring Pennsylvania — ride the fracking boom and reap profits from one of the world’s largest natural gas deposits.

Johnson said he’d be more accepting of the Cuomo administration’s decision if Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker had presented some clear scientific basis for a ban.

Instead, Martens based part of his decision on the low price of gas and the fact that 63 percent of New York’s share of the Marcellus region was off-limits to drilling because of local bans and prohibitions.

Judi Whittaker, who has a 550-cow dairy in Whitney Point, had hoped to use gas-lease money to pay property taxes. “If we had been able to get some gas drilling going it would have made our lives a little easier and taken a few of the stresses away,” Whittaker said.