Feb 25, 2015 - 6:00pm

Hydraulic Fracturing Ban Drives New York Towns to Consider Seceding


Senior Editor, Digital Content

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A natural gas rig in Washington Township, PA.
A natural gas rig in Washington Township, PA. Photo credit: Bloomberg.

Talk of secession is usually reserved for cranks wanting to relive the Civil War, but recently some New York State towns started looking at joining neighboring Pennsylvania.

The reason? Hydraulic fracturing.

The 15 towns are conducting studies to determine whether it would be economically feasible to join Pennsylvania, where natural gas drilling is booming. Among other things, the group, which calls itself the Upstate New York Towns Association, is comparing tax rates as well as cost of living and business expenses in the two states. It expects to complete its study in the coming weeks.

The towns are in Broome, Delaware, Tioga and Sullivan counties.

While both states sit above the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale, in New York State, Governor Cuomo last December banned hydraulic fracturing after a six-year de facto moratorium.

In contrast, Pennsylvania allows it, and as a result, the Keystone State reaps the benefits record levels of natural gas production.

New Yorkers look with a touch of envy at the job and economic opportunities shale energy is generating for their Pennsylvania neighbors:

“Everybody over the border has new cars, new four-wheelers, new snowmobiles,” said [Conklin town supervisor James] Finch, a Republican. “They have new roofs, new siding.”

Finch said some residents in his town travel the short distance to Pennsylvania, where they work in the fracking industry. Some of those workers, he said, are making six-figure salaries.

In the meantime, many businesses in Conklin are closing, he said.

"The Southern Tier is desolate," Jim Finch told WBNG-TV in Binghamton, which first reported the secession plan. "We have no jobs and no income. The richest resource we have is in the ground."

New York State’s hydraulic fracturing ban is generating frustration, Broome County GOP Chairman Bijoy Datta told IJReview:

These New York towns are literally a stone’s throw from Pennsylvania and they see the economic results of gas drilling – more jobs, new roads, reduced taxes and higher property values – and it’s just out of their reach because big government said “no.”

Secession by these towns is unlikely. Jazz Shaw, who lives in the region, writes at Hot Air, "I can’t imagine the state government in Albany ever agreeing to let some of their citizens flee New York for better conditions."

Nevertheless, it reminds us how valuable embracing America’s energy abundance can be.

A U.S. Chamber Institute for 21st Century Energy report estimates that shale energy development will create 220,000 jobs for Pennsylvania by 2020 and 387,000 jobs by 2035. New Yorkers would like to benefit from the shale boom too.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.