Nonsensical Natural Gas Policies

In Washington, the conventional wisdom [for awhile now](http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=an_unnatural_alliance) has been that natural gas should serve as a "bridge fuel" to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower. But people who live in states from which natural gas will be extracted are less psyched about the possibility of having a new extraction industry with a questionable environmental record move in.

The reaction of their state governments to these concerns has been mixed. In the span of the last week, Pennsylvania lawmakers [voted against](http://delcotimes.com/articles/2011/06/29/news/doc4e0af6f3ae912434952679...) putting an "impact fee" on the natural gas industry; New Jersey lawmakers [voted to ban](http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-30/new-jersey-lawmakers-send-chris...) the drilling technique known as hydrofracking altogether; and New York's Gov. Cuomo, [according to the New York Times](http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/nyregion/cuomo-will-seek-to-lift-drill...), at least, decided that New York should lift the current ban on fracking. (Compared to the other two states, Jersey has less potential for natural gas production.)

The EPA is in the midst of a study assessing the environmental dangers of hydrofracking, which has been blamed for air and water contamination in drilling areas. In the absence of a national consensus on exactly how dangerous this drilling technique is, though, different clusters of people are being somewhat arbitrarily chosen to deal with the potential consequences -- Pennsylvanians but not New Jerseyites, or in New York, people who live outside of the watershed for New York City or for Syracuse.

New York's policy in particular is nonsensical. If there's nothing to worry about, why not let natural gas companies drill in the watershed for New York City? If there is something to worry about, why let them drill places that will affect other communities in the state? And if you're going to drill, admit that the worries that led you to exempt New York City's watershed from drilling mean that some system should be put in place to compensate the citizens bearing the brunt of the impact from new drilling.

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