One Year Into NY’s Fracking Ban And Upstate’s Economy Is Getting Killed

Michael Bastasch

It’s been one year since Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, from happening in New York, and the natural gas-rich Southern Tier has been hemorrhaging jobs.

While New York’s economy has added jobs on the whole, jobs are disappearing in regions where natural gas drilling would have taken place had fracking been approved by Cuomo. A 2011 state government study found fracking would support 54,000 jobs, but those jobs will never come and upstate New Yorkers are feeling the pain.

The city of Binghamton lost 1,700 jobs in the last year alone, but residents living right across the Pennsylvania border in Susquehanna County aren’t losing their jobs by the thousands. The county’s unemployment rate has been flat in the last year, but that’s after years of job and wage growth.

Susquehanna “led the state in both total wage growth and average weekly wage growth,” according to Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the free market Commonwealth Foundation.

Binghamton’s dour jobs news comes nearly a year after Cuomo announced he would ban fracking, making permanent a five-year moratorium on the well-stimulation technique. Cuomo’s decision came as a shock to the industry, but was cheered by environmentalists who claimed fracking would contaminate water and cause more global warming.

Cuomo’s administration finalized its ban on fracking in June, claiming “there are no feasible or prudent alternatives that would adequately avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts and that address the scientific uncertainties and risks to public health” from fracking.

New York’s finalized fracking ban came after the federal Environmental Protection Agency found no “widespread, systemic” evidence of groundwater contamination from hydrofracking.

The stark difference between between northern Pennsylvania counties, where fracking is occurring, and New York’s Southern Tier has been compared to the “Berlin Wall.” The latest state jobs data suggests that metaphor holds, even after Pennsylvania’s jobs boom from fracking begins to subside as prices fall.

Binghamton is not alone in suffering job losses. The town of Elmira shed 900 jobs in the last year and Ithaca has shed 1,300 jobs. These metro areas have seen a long trend of job losses due to high taxes and low economic growth.

The state comptroller’s office published a report in August claiming that virtually all the job gains in the last five years were concentrated in New York City. Upstate regions, on the other hand, were seeing declines in jobs and wage growth.

“The Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Central New York and North Country regions all experienced employment declines over the five years, with lower rates of total wage growth,” the comptroller reported.

The comptroller even noted New York missed out on potential job growth from hydraulic fracturing.

“Manufacturing jobs declined by 5 percent in New York over the five years, as compared to growth of almost 3 percent nationally,” according to the report, adding that “the large increase in domestic oil and natural gas production over the past five years contributed to this significant employment growth at the national level.”

southern tier

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