New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) would like everyone to know that he, too, “is not a scientist.”
Interestingly, Cuomo put a bit of a twist on the refrain. Unlike the Republican lawmakers and candidates who have taken up the line as their standard response to the question of whether manmade carbon emissions cause climate change, the Governor used it to dodge the question of what should be done about fracking.
According to a report from WIVB News 4 in Buffalo, New York, the topic came up during a debate Wednesday night between Cuomo and his Republican rival Rob Astorino, along with Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian candidate Michael McDermott. The four are running for the state’s governorship in the November elections.
“Thirty five states have natural gas, 34 are safely drilling and their economies are booming,” Astorino said, pressing the issue of whether fracking should be allowed in the state. The drilling practice currently isn’t permitted in New York, thanks to a moratorium that’s been in place since 2008.
“Let’s look at what’s going on in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota. We can do that here in New York.”
“I’m not a scientist,” Cuomo said in response. “Let the scientists decide. It’s very complicated, very controversial, academic studies come out all different ways. Let the experts decide.”
Capital New York also reported that Cuomo shot back at Astorino over a 2012 law the latter signed as Westchester County executive, banning the sale, application, and disposal of fracking fluid on all county roads and at all its wastewater treatment plants. “When he’s upstate he’s Sarah Palin: drill baby drill,” Cuomo said. “When he goes back home, he’s Mark Ruffalo.”
Cuomo himself has taken heat for his administration’s involvement in editing and delaying a study on fracking that had been commissioned in 2011. According to Capital New York, the final version of the report that followed the Administration’s edits did not change any numerical findings from earlier drafts, but it “played down or removed” references to fracking-related health and environmental risks, and “excised a reference to risks associated with gas pipelines and underground storage.” The original version was going to come with “politically inconvenient conclusions” for Cuomo’s administration, as Capital New York pointed out, given the Governor’s support for various controversial energy projects.
“Mr. Cuomo says he’s waiting for the science but when some science came back from the U.S. Geological Survey, his administration wanted to change the results,” Hawkins said last night, referencing the story. “They suggested edits and delays. So what is it?”
The Cuomo Administration has previously insisted the edits were routine.
“We have to be sure it’s safe,” said McDermott, adding his two cents in the debate. “I’m not willing to take a risk to our ground water and our environment because it might be safe. We have to know if it’s going be safe.”
Cuomo did make some waves on Wednesday night by declaring the state’s study on fracking’s health effects would be “due at the end of the year.” The report has long been in limbo, with Cuomo saying it would be ready “when it’s ready” as recently as September.
Cuomo has said he won’t make a decision on the fracking moratorium until the study is finished.