NY Farmers Lament Lost Opportunity for Gas Riches
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — While environmental groups are doing a victory dance over New York's decision to ban fracking, farmers such as apple grower David Johnson are grieving for dashed hopes and dreams.
"I'm devastated," Johnson said after Gov. Andrew Cuomo's health and environmental commissioners announced Wednesday that they were recommending a fracking ban. "I have concerns about how to continue this farm that's been in the family for 150 years."
Energy companies denied the chance to drill in New York can simply raise their rigs in other states. That's what they've done since the Marcellus Shale gas drilling boom began in 2008 and New York launched an environmental review that effectively put a moratorium in place. But landowners in the state's Southern Tier region who had hoped to reap royalties from gas production don't have that option.
"Frankly, my heart breaks for all those families in the Southern Tier who were denied the opportunity to develop their mineral resources," said Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York branch of the American Petroleum Institute.
New Yorkers have watched other states that sit atop the Marcellus Shale - Ohio, West Virginia and neighboring Pennsylvania - ride the fracking boom and reap profits from one of the world's largest natural gas deposits. Some New York landowners signed lucrative leases with energy companies and received multi-million-dollar signing bonuses before the natural gas market and the state's regulatory climate soured. But many landowner coalitions never got the chance to sell their leases.
That's fine with landowners who don't want drilling on their land or their neighbors'. Their ranks include many organic farmers, vineyard owners, tourist business operators and town residents who agree with environmental groups that the health risks and changes to the rural landscape outweigh the financial benefits.
Johnson, who runs a 30-acre pick-your-own apple farm on his mostly wooded 400 acres in Binghamton, said drilling money would help keep struggling farms in business and create new jobs for the next generation.
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