Natural Gas And Upstate New York
If you live in New York City or the suburban counties that surround it, you need not worry that a drilling rig will pull up to explore for natural gas. Geologically, these areas are not known to produce it.
However, the geology of New York changes if you live west of the Catskills and south of the Adirondacks. Here, in the Appalachian Basin, Mother Nature deposited some thick shale deposits which can produce natural gas in great quantities. These natural gas resources in New York extend all the way to Syracuse, Buffalo and west to Chautauqua County where I live.
Since the 1970s, natural gas has been produced in upstate and was set to continue to grow until the state decided to shut it down by imposing a moratorium on permits. With new technology, wells could be drilled in this area which are 30-50 times more productive than the old vertical gas wells drilled in the 1970s and ’80s. Instead, we are told that casinos should become our economic lifeblood. Nothing is mentioned that casinos are only profitable when more people lose money than win, or that the average casino job in New York pays $38,000 per year. Nor is it mentioned that in nearby Pennsylvania an average job in the natural gas extraction industry pays $109,000 and the average job for natural gas “support activities” is paying $74,000 per year. (Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2013)
It is true that some of the jobs created in finding and producing natural gas occur during the initial finding and exploration phase of the process. However, it is also true that the subsequent economic benefits to local communities in the form of real property tax payments and production-related and support jobs extend long after the drilling rigs leave.
Politicians from downstate seem to get their common energy advice from people who are pushing a certain political agenda which promises that all energy can come solely from renewable resources. They dwell on a “star wars” scenario which contemplates huge polluters who are out to wreck the world. The environmental and economic benefits of natural gas are not mentioned though even its opponents continue to benefit from its use in heating and providing electricity to their homes.
Those of us who live in “upstate” know that we will forever be in the minority with our urban cousins. (There are 95 Assemblymen living south of the Tappan Zee Bridge and it only takes 76 to pass a bill.) However, it is in every New Yorker’s best interest that the energy resources we have in the state be reasonably and prudently developed. Right now, the state imports virtually all of its natural gas from neighboring states.
My mother used to say, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” Shouldn’t we New Yorkers help supply our own energy needs? Upstate needs the jobs, we all need the natural gas. If politicians want to help upstate, let upstate produce natural gas.
Rolland Kidder was a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly from 1975 through 1982 and of its Environmental Conservation Committee; former owner and CEO of a Western New York natural gas exploration and production company.