If you want to see what transformative change looks like, just travel fourteen miles south of Binghamton to the Pennsylvania border. Several counties in the northern tier of PA are experiencing never-before-seen growth due to the emergence of the natural gas industry. Many of these communities, once in economic despair, are in the midst of an economic renaissance due to an influx of new investment and job opportunities.
For example, Bradford County, PA, a predominantly rural region in the northern tier, is now the number one job creating county in Pennsylvania. New shopping centers are being built along with new hotels. Coffee shops and diners are bustling, freight rail and air service is surging and schools and non-profit agencies are receiving unsubsidized funding that is able to go back into local communities. Farmers, who a few years ago were not sure how to stay afloat, are now investing in new livestock and new equipment. Bradford County is also enjoying nearly 0% unemployment – a far cry from what is happening due north. Just recently at a seminar in Binghamton, a Bradford County official said that if New York doesn’t want the drills, “they be happy to keep them in PA.” New York can simply not afford to let that happen.
As New York goes through yet another public comment period, special interests and misinformation continue to dominate the conversation regarding drilling. Opponents scramble to find evidence that drilling is unsafe while Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia forge ahead – balancing the interests of environmental protection with economic opportunity.
The Governor and the DEC have put forth a rational approach to drilling that protects water resources and provides sound regulations to minimize the impacts of natural gas drilling. State officials are ready to move forward and it is time that they do. After nearly four years of development, the DEC has put forth a plan with detailed rules to promote transparency, protect air and water and ensure the well-being of local communities.
It is estimated that natural gas development in New York will spur $11.4 billion in economic output and create nearly 20,000 jobs in the southern tier and western regions of the state. These are areas, which combined, lost 48,000 payroll jobs between 2000-2010. The jobs created will be high-skilled, high-wage and local jobs. This comes at a time when New York desperately needs to act as a job stimulator and not an inhibitor.
In the year ahead, New York is facing nearly a $2.5 billion budget deficit and lower than anticipated sales tax revenue that will further add to the state’s budget woes. To this point, Governor Cuomo has demonstrated a sound understanding of what is needed to make New York competitive and we need to support his pragmatic approach to drilling. We have made significant progress this year to right-size the state’s economy, but we cannot continue to impede the economic opportunity that drilling provides. It is time to move New York forward.