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Somewhere along the path of life our culture changed. Perhaps the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s shifted the cultural thinking, from President Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” to “it is government’s job to help me.”
Government programs that were designed to help for a short period of time evolved into entitlements that are cast in stone, and redistributed trillions of dollars in the process.
Our cultural thinking about government has changed. We readily accept the primary function of local and federal governments to protect the public. That is the reason for the local police force and the federal defense agencies. In addition, we trust the state and federal governments to protect us from unsafe food, water, drugs, consumer goods, infrastructure development and virtually anything that might harm us.
However, it is strange that when the state government develops rules and regulations designed to control the development of natural resources, such regulations are viewed by many as not be trusted. This cultural evolvement into not trusting government to protect our health and safety appears to be expanding.
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Keith Schue’s March 10 Viewpoint column in The Sunday Gazette, demanding that Gov. Cuomo stop hydrofracking for natural gas development in New York, is a case in point. The facts are that the technology of fracture treating oil and gas wells to increase production has been used for 60 years and applied more than a million times, including in New York state.
In addition, high-volume hydrofracking has been developed for 10 years and performed more than 20,000 times without one documented case of breaking into fresh water aquifers, something that has been ignored.
The fact is that those who oppose resource development do not care that experienced oil- and gas-trained engineers in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation spent more than three years evaluating past production procedures in order to develop stringent regulations to govern future development in New York.
Perhaps a personal example will help in our understanding of this issue.
As a young engineer working in the oil fields of Oklahoma, my supervising manager at one time chided me for wanting one more monthly production data point prior to making a recommendation. You see, I already had monthly production records for many years. What would one additional data point mean when I had literally a hundred or more data points? The answer is — nothing meaningful!
That supervisor provided a teaching moment — use the abundant information available to develop the conclusion for a recommended action.
The State DEC has compiled the field data and has performed the necessary studies of fracture treatment information. However, this cultural distrust of government has brought many to reject this extensive work as being “woefully inadequate,” requiring additional scientific studies.
Those who believe that hydro-fracking destroys our water resources will never be satisfied with additional studies, even as they demand more studies. Their purpose is to stop development and its benefits. It is unfortunate that the misinformation on hydrofracking has evolved into a political movement where Gov. Cuomo now must deal with it.
A recent editorial in The Daily Gazette pointed out that the governor can’t win on this issue. He is faced with the decision that will create many long-term jobs and financial benefits to countless thousands of property owners, or anger thousands of voters who believe fracture technology will hurt us all.
Unfortunately, the governor brought this mess on to himself. He could have stopped this from getting out of hand by simply supporting his environmental conservation commissioner, as the agency progressed through the science of field evaluations and formulated regulations addressing this issue.
The lack of leadership has surely contributed to the cultural shift in not trusting the government. Governor, you have an opportunity to do what is right for New York by reducing the expensive bureaucratic mess and approving gas well development.
Russ Wege, a retired engineer, lives in Glenville. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.