Bloomberg speaks out on Cuomo’s position on hydrofracking

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Chenault, Bloomberg, Quinn, Walsh. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly defended Governor Andrew Cuomo's current position on hydrofracking.

"I think the governor, our governor, has it just right," said the mayor, during a press conference at Rothman's, a men's clothing store on Union Square. "Governor Cuomo said he didn't want fracking in the watershed. I agree with that. But you shouldn’t walk away from an energy source that we need."

The mayor was at a men's clothing store in Union Square to annouce an initiative called Building Blocks for Neighborhood Retail, designed to improve the health of the city's struggling retail corridors, which comprise a core component of the city's economy. (The retail industry employes more than 300,000 people in New York.)

The intitiative includes the creation of a centralized website that will offer merchants information on storefront vacancies and demographic data; a Neighborhood Pop-Up Store Competition designed to fill vacant storefronts and foment new retail ideas; and leadership training for active local merchants.

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Bloomberg was joined at the press conference by his frequent public companion, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, as well as city Small Business Services commissioner Robert Walsh and American Express C.E.O. Ken Chenault, who was simultanetously launching American Express’s second “Small Business Saturday.”

The mayor's gesture of support for Cuomo came in response to a question asking Bloomberg about plans for a new natural-gas pipeline that will run from Staten Island to New Jersey and then terminate in the West Village.

The New York Times this morning reported on the pipeline plans, which have drawn opposition from West Village residents and Jersey City mayor Jerramiah Healy. Because the pipeline would carry some natural gas derived using the controversial hydrofracking extraction method, it has also drawn opposition from fracking opponents like actor Mark Ruffalo.

The mayor was having none of that.

"This is a gas line that we desperately need," he said. "Only about 20 percent of the gas, incidentally, that comes through that line will go to New York City. It goes north, south, east, west, all around. It’s a regional thing. And the controversy is that there will be some gas that’s taken out of the grounds through a fracking process."

The mayor then gave a small speech about the practice formally known as hydraulic fracturing, and its place in the context of energy and the environment.

"My understanding is there’s virtually no natural gas anymore, almost none, that’s not done with fracking," he said. "If you think about it, what shale is, that holds gas, is just sort of like petrified mud. And it holds all the gas. And so you want to get the gas out of it. And the way they do it is they drill in and then they burst it open a little bit with high pressure water and sand that holds it open and it’s just so much more efficient.

"Almost all gas throughout the country comes from that. And there’s no free lunch. You're gonna have choices. You want more nuclear? Do you want more coal? Do you want more natural gas?"

"Coal," continued the mayor, "kills 13,000 people a year in the United States with the pollutants that it puts in the air. About 800 of those are in the New York region. Stopping coal-fired plants is one of the highest priorities we have. In fact, my foundation, as you remember, made a big gift to the Sierra Club that’s trying to do just that. But we have to have an alternative source. And the alternative source that’s the most practical at the moment is not solar, wind, someday maybe, but for the moment it is natural gas."

Hydrofracking has become a hot-button issue in New York State, with energy interests battling environmentalists for state approval to drill in the Marcellus Shale.

Yesterday, state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joe Martens said it was taking longer than expected to produce oversight and enforcement guidelines for the hydrofracking process, and that issuance of drilling permits would, therefore, take longer than anticipated.

Cuomo supports ending a moratorium on hydrofracking on private land in New York State, but has said the practice should be banned within watersheds serving New York City, Syracuse, and other municipalities.