Friday, December 19, 2014

So much rural news, so little time to blog: the energy boom and its impact on rural locales

While I've been giving final exams, grading papers, and preparing for the holidays, my bookmarks of online stories with rural angles have been piling up.  So I'm going to write this composite posts about some of the collected stories that share a common theme:  fracking and other types of energy exploration in relation to rural people and places.

One big headline is that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo this week decided to ban fracking throughout that state.  Cuomo had earlier been poised to embrace fracking, and in 2012 his administration considered limiting the process to counties along the Pennsylvania border where communities expressed support for the technology.  Earlier posts about the issue are here and here.

Of Wednesday's announcement, the New York Times wrote:
the move to ban fracking left [Cuomo] acknowledging that, despite the intense focus he has given to solving deep economic troubles afflicting large areas upstate, the riddle remained largely unsolved. “I’ve never had anyone say to me, ‘I believe fracking is great,’ ” he said. “Not a single person in those communities. What I get is, ‘I have no alternative but fracking.’ 
A story on NPR yesterday had some folks from neighboring Pennsylvania fairly gloating at New York's decision.   Pennsylvania is home to some 7,000 active wells.  The story quotes Stephanie Catarino Wissman, head of Pennsylvania's division of the American Petroleum Institute:
I mean, I would say to New Yorkers, 'Come to Pennsylvania and take advantage of these jobs that are available with this well-paying industry.'
Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council, is quoted in the New York Times:
Our citizens in the Southern Tier have had to watch their neighbors and friends across the border in Pennsylvania thriving economically.  It’s like they were a kid in a candy store window, looking through the window, and not able to touch that opportunity.
As for his motivation, Moreau asserted that Cuomo "wants to align himself with the left."

From the other side of the county, here's a fabulous photographic feature of the North Dakota oil boom, by Bryan Denton, a photojournalist who has spent most of his career in the Middle East.  A native Californian, he went looking for a subject that was different exotic and settled on the Bakken oil boom's impact on North Dakota, a phenomenon he had first heard about while embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan in 2009.  Here is an excerpt that touches on attachment to place and the tension between old-timers and newcomer from his Lens feature in the New York Times:
A problem with the area’s growth is that much of it comes from people who have no intention of setting down roots. 
“I’m used to working in places that are very family-oriented or tribal-oriented,” Mr. Denton said. “But here most people were transient without any friends, so it was a bit difficult to find people whose lives I could get into.” 
Another obstacle was that many of the longtime residents resented journalists, feeling most stories about the area were concerned with crime, drugs and prostitution. Mr. Denton had encountered a lot of distrust for similar reasons in the Middle East, and he was used to working with people who were skeptical of the presence of an outsider.
Meanwhile, Kai Schafft of Penn. State has been studying "bust amidst the boom" in relation to fracking in Pennsylvania.  He presented his preliminary findings at a Poverty and Place Conference at UC Davis  in November.

A recent post about the impact of falling gas prices on hydraulic fracturing in rural places is here.

No comments: