Sights and sounds from a rally in support of natural gas and hydraulic fracturing in New York state:
On a T-shirt: “You’re in Shale Country.” On another: “Friends of Natural Gas NY.” On many, simply: “Jobs.”
The rally in the state capital city of Albany mostly featured people from rural New York, from parts of the Empire State that are years – decades in some cases – separated from productive farms, prosperous shops and small businesses and thriving small communities.
Many are frustrated because there’s hope of renewed prosperity – in the big swath of the Marcellus Shale that runs beneath New York – natural gas-rich rock that through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing could reinvigorate agriculture and manufacturing in a state that badly needs jobs. Yet that hope is held at arm’s length in the form of a four-year moratorium on shale development, while state officials conduct a seemingly never-ending debate over development plans and the state’s regulatory oversight.
Some New Yorkers are weary of waiting. They carried signs: “New York Natural Gas Jobs Welcome Here!” and “We Need Jobs, Drill Now” and “My Grandson Wants a Job.” They chanted, “Put New York back to work” and “No more delays!”
“This is the rally of the real people, for real jobs,” said Douglas Lee of the Landowners Advocates of New York. “This affects everybody in the state – real people, not Hollywood people.”
“We will have gas drilling in New York state because we need drilling in New York state,” said Debbie Preston, county executive of Broome County, on the state’s shale-rich southern border. “We need it today.”
Uni Blake, of Maryland, N.Y., near Oneonta in the state’s interior, challenged state leaders:
“I speak as a mother and as a woman of the shale country. I speak driven by the scientist in me, who has been in search of answers and solutions. … While some may feel that there is a potential threat to the public health in the process of developing natural gas, I would counter and say public health threats already exist by us not developing New York state resources. … I implore the governor and the (DEC) commissioner to stop kicking the can down the road, to make a decision, based on science and facts. Allow local natural gas development to give hope back to rural New York.”
These are the voices of New York, imploring state leaders to get onboard the shale revolution, for job and economic growth and rekindled hope in places where people are hungry for it. As the rally marched its way round New York’s grand, Romanesque revival capitol building, the chants no doubt reached inside. The question is, were they listening?