Even though the ultimate call on allowing fracking in the New York section of the Marcellus Shale will reside with Andrew Cuomo, the state’s governor, it was mostly pro-fracking candidates that won more local races on Tuesday.
As Platts’ Rodney White noted after reporting on the various local outcomes:
The votes for pro-fracking candidates demonstrated that celebrities have very little appeal in a region where people having been living under an economic cloud for decades. Professional pols, like Cuomo, understand that votes are political statements that carry a great deal more weight than sound bites.
Of course, it’s always hard to look at the results from one election and draw a conclusion about what it means for one specific issue. But the pro-fracking forces in New York were certainly crowing after Election Day.
As Rodney noted in his coverage, and as was also noted in a widely web-circulated story from the Associated Press, many candidates in tight races that took a clear pro-fracking stance won. They cited the re-election of State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous (in a year in which the Republicans may have lost their control of the NY State Senate) and Broome County Executive Debbie Preston, both of whom ran on explicit pro-fracking platforms. (Libous’ district includes parts of Broome County and other potential drilling regions.)
That potential GOP downfall in the State Senate was cited by a spokesman for one leading anti-fracking group as a sign that his forces had done better than at first glance. John Armstrong, communications director for Frack Action, acknowledged that anti-fracking candidates suffered losses in the Southern Tier of the state, which is where fracking — if ever approved in New York — is expected to be permitted. But given the Democrats’ Senate success, he also was able to cite that as saying there was support for an opposition to fracking.
“Senate Democrats have based much of their platform on stopping fracking in New York,” Armstrong said. “I think we have New Yorkers speaking out. They want people in the state Senate who will stop fracking across the entire state.”
And Yvonne Lucia, co-chair of the New York Residents Against Drilling, tried to downplay the Preston victory by noting she already popular in Broome County, having built up political capital in helping the area recover from recent floods.
In another twist in the New York fracking debate, Yoko Ono and her son Sean have become very visible in the anti-fracking movement, the latest being steps to buy ad space onbillboards using a play on some song lyrics you may have heard.
There’s always the possibility that regardless of who gets elected to the Senate or to local offices, fracking in New York may just fade away. It’s a nice, neat solution for everyone: Cuomo, likely to run for president in 2016 as a moderate, won’t need to take a decision that might mark him as an environmentalist extremist who takes economic growth suggestions from people living in The Dakota instead of the county executive of Broome County, where unemployment until recently was more than 9%. And it isn’t likely to hurt him when he runs for re-election in 2014, which ought to be a cakewalk.
But instead, he delays and studies the issue yet again, a step he announced last month. Meanwhile, exploration companies on the ground in New York, with the need to eventually get a return on capital deployed, may just throw up their hands and go away. That sort of outcome, ending in a slow fade rather than a big bang up or down, is a possibility that has been foreseen by more than one observer engaging in web banter.