Fractured States: Why Shale Has Some New Yorkers Talking About Secession

According to local media, a “move is afoot” among some New York residents to secede from the state and join Pennsylvania, where the controversial method of extracting oil and natural gas has bolstered the local economy.

Mnet 43041 Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Tower 1

Fracking is a booming business in Pennsylvania and some nearby residents in New York, where fracking is now banned, want a piece of it.

According to local media, a “move is afoot” among some New York residents to secede from the state and join Pennsylvania, where the controversial method of extracting oil and natural gas has bolstered the local economy.

The idea of secession is definitely far-fetched — some have even branded it a “stunt.” But according to the report, a group called the Upstate New York Towns Association is nevertheless researching the possibility of a “Southern Tier secession.”

And no matter how far they get, it’s clear many New Yorkers along the border with Pennsylvania are becoming envious as they watch their neighbors prosper from drilling into the Marcellus Shale.

Marcellus stretches from Pennsylvania to West Virginia, encompassing 104,000 square miles of potential shale riches. Production from Marcellus for natural gas has been growing over the last few years, and according to NPR, there are now 7,109 active wells in Marcellus in Pennsylvania. Marcellus is now the largest source of natural gas in the U.S.

In Pennsylvania, residents have cashed in. Local media reports that the perception is that shale has translated into “new trucks and snowmobiles in every Pennsylvania driveway.”

Struggling New Yorkers, meanwhile, can only watch and wonder how shale could change their fortunes if the border would shift by just a handful of miles. Adding insult to injury for many is how close they came to jumping onto the shale bandwagon.

PennLive reports:

“In the mid-2000s, when the fracking boom…was just gearing up, gas drilling companies made the rounds in the Southern Tier, discussing leases with property owners, even though New York State had yet to determine how it would handle fracking the Marcellus Shale. The sentiment in many parts of the Southern Tier held that was only a matter of time before the natural resources locked away in the shale would be unleashed, transforming their towns.

But as years went by and wells were sunk deep and many in neighboring Pennsylvania, the Southern Tier waited as both town leaders and the state dragged their feet. Finally, a fracking moratorium turned into an outright ban late last year, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced what to some here found unthinkable:

The Marcellus Shale shall not be fracked.”

For anti-frackers — who cite concerns about the potential for environmental catastrophes — the ban in New York was a major victory.

According to PennLive, one of the area’s biggest fracking opponents, Issac Silberman-Gorn, from Save the Southern Tier, was quoted as saying: "The gas industry worked really hard to create the narrative that the Southern Tier wanted fracking. That's ridiculous. This is about international corporate profits and companies looking to export this gas…These are vampire industries. They suck the blood and leave."

But many residents in the Southern Tier are not letting the matter die without voicing their ongoing objections. While no one seems to really believe that opponents to the ban will be victorious in their secession efforts, raising the issue has gotten many in the area talking — not just about shale, but about other grievances including high taxes and the low opportunities left in the wake of the ban.

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