New York governor Andrew Cuomo (on the right above) has written a thoroughly excellent opinion piece in the Daily News, pledging that the state will lead on climate change and "must press ahead with urgency to equip itself for the new age of extreme weather."
Cuomo hits many, many crucial points, talking about reconsidering where and how we rebuild so as to get homes out of harms way, to start. He mentions the importance of building redundancy into our fuel distribution system, upgrading our communication network so that it actually functions in the middle of a Sandy-scale disaster. Reinforcing New York City's transit system is also top on his list.
Cuomo ends by saying, "There is no more time for debate. This is our moment to act," and touting New York's "extraordinary enterprising spirit, unparalleled resiliency and a long history of engineering the impossible." Erie Canal anyone?
It's all great, nary a wrong word in the text.
Except that there is a hugely glaring omission, concerning slowing climate change itself, not just making New York better able to cope.
The Governor never once mentions fracking.
Cuomo could have taken the moment to stand up and say that New York State will not allow fracking at all, thereby protecting water supply, reducing air pollution, and reducing carbon emissions.
But, but, you may be saying, "If natural gas displaces coal production, that's a win for the environment." Which is true, except when that natural gas is obtained by fracking.
Conventionally obtained natural gas does have significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions when burned for electricity than does coal; and under that math more natural gas and less coal is a tempting proposition. But when obtained by fracking, much more energy intensive than conventional extraction, report and report has shown that the greenhouse gas emissions are significantly higher. Some studies actually say fracked natural gas as having higher emissions than coal.
And none of that actually considers the not insignificant potential problems fracking can cause with water supply, local industrialization of otherwise rural landscape, air pollution from production and transport.
New York State wisely backed off approving hydraulic fracturing a few months ago, under substantial public outcry and high-profile opposition. All signs were pointing to approval of fracking in the state, accompanied by the creation of so-called sacrifice zones where it would be approved, often in lower income areas. But then the Cuomo administration reconsidered, restarting the whole approval process.
If the Governor is serious about combatting climate change, making the state more resilient, as he's articulate expressed today, then banning fracking should be a simple choice. Ban it now.