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ENERGY State must be open to options

The OBSERVER’s View

It is obvious that New York wants to end its relationship with fossil fuels, including natural gas.

We’re sure there will be a lot of support among state lawmakers for a proposed state ban on hydraulic fracturing. There shouldn’t be, though that doesn’t mean there should be a drumbeat for hydraulic fracturing right now either.

There are good studies on both sides of the hydraulic fracturing debate. Some say the practice is unsafe, causes groundwater contamination, can cause earthquakes and unleashes toxic chemicals on the environment. Other studies, including one by the U.S. EPA, say the practice is safe with appropriate safeguards. We’re not passing judgement on either side of the debate. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has made its statement on hydraulic fracturing five years ago and that statement is currently the law of the land.

Banning the practice, as is proposed by state Sen. Jennifer Metzger, D-Middletown, is bad policy right now. New York state is charging toward a future where it hopes most of the state’s energy needs come from renewable energy. That’s an admirable goal, but many feel it comes with an unrealistic time frame and unacceptable cost. What happens, though, if renewable energy technology doesn’t come to fruition quickly enough to meet the state’s aggressive timetable? What happens if the technologies come together but no one can afford to use them? What happens if there are unintended consequences to moving so quickly?

New York is home to a vast reserve of natural gas buried underneath its portion of the Marcellus Shale. It would be unwise for the state to turn its back on such a vast resource, even if that using that resource may not make business sense or environmental sense as 2019 grows to a close. The Wall Street Journal has reported several times the financial troubles natural gas companies are having, in part because the low price of natural gas is making it difficult to recoup their investment in hydraulic fracturing technology.

Just as the state needs to encourage investment in renewable energy, it should encourage investment in ways to tap into the state’s natural gas reserves. A bridge fuel may be a nice thing to have if renewable energy winds up being too costly to use or takes longer to fill the state’s power needs than originally anticipated.

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