Noah covered this when the story first popped up in the news last week, but it’s one which falls in my back yard (literally) and seems to have some legs. Lawmakers in fifteen towns across four counties in upstate New York are pondering the possibility of seceding from the Empire State and being adopted by Pennsylvania.
Fifteen towns in upstate New York have expressed interest in secession after the state banned fracking, according to an interest group researching the economic benefits of such a move.
The Upstate New York Towns Association said 15 towns expressed interest breaking away to join Pennsylvania, which allows fracking, according to television station WBNG. Although the group declined to name specific towns involved in the effort, WBNG reported the towns are located in Broome, Delaware, Tioga and Sullivan counties.
Those counties are located in or near New York’s natural gas-rich Southern Tier, which borders Pennsylvania.
For full disclosure, the Southern Tier is my home turf, and there were some people around here chuckling when this news came out. But at the same time, the laughs were almost always followed by something along the lines of, But yeah… could we really do that? The local Towns Association isn’t laughing, and they released a statement covering the subject this weekend.
The recent media attention to secession appears to have started with the Pocketbook Survey put out by Senate Deputy Majority Coalition Leader Tom Libous. Question 4. In the survey states: “Some Kirkwood & Conklin residents want those towns to secede to Pennsylvania. Would you support that?” Senator Libous told the Huffington Post, “After the recent Casino and Gas Drilling decisions, my office received many emails, phone calls and messages from constituents calling for a Southern Tier secession from New York State.”
The Association will review the results from Senator Libous’ survey and review the Association’s study comparing taxes and the cost of doing business in New York and Pennsylvania as well as look at what was found regarding decisions made in Albany disproportionately benefitting Downstate. With all this information, the Association will decide what action should be taken. Options such as seceding to Pennsylvania, partitioning the state, as well as other options that may come up will be looked at.
This is a new idea and quite different from the one which pops up every few years in the broader upstate regions. Generally we hear talk about kicking New York City out and having it become its own 51st state. This is an extremely popular concept west of the Hudson River, as the Big Apple is a huge resource drain and its massive population maintains an iron grip on the state government in Albany, much to the detriment of the more rural, conservative regions across the rest of the state. If we were somehow able to do it, upstate could begin selling our water to the city rather than just having them drain billions of dollars in aqueduct construction and taking it all. We might also have some reasonable tax and gun laws, rather than being ruled by the dictates of Manhattan.
This is a much smaller border war. It’s really only the Southern Tier which is affected by the fracking ban, though the region suffers equally along with the rest of the state from the foolish liberal policies of the New York City Democrats. The gas resources available here are locked off from development, and many landowners have lived through years of frustration as they watched their neighbors just over the border to the south enjoy a resurgence in their economy and job prospects. Jobs have bled off from the area with no new development to replace them, largely due to the state’s insane tax policies.
The problem with all of this is that it looks pretty much impossible. The rules for changing state borders are clear, and the powers that be in Albany and Manhattan would never be on board with it.
Boundary changes between states require the approval of each state’s legislature and the approval of Congress. The U.S. Supreme Court settles boundary disputes between states.
While Pennsylvania would no doubt love to expand their territory and gain access to the mineral resources, I can’t imagine the state government in Albany ever agreeing to let some of their citizens flee New York for better conditions. There wouldn’t be any hope of intervention by the Supreme Court because this isn’t technically a “boundary dispute” between two states. These borders have been fairly well settled for two centuries or more. Short of some sort of armed insurrection (which would be doomed to failure before it began) this doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere, nice though it might be. The Towns Association might very well get Pennsylvania to take up the issue and even submit a request to New York if they’re feeling particularly bored, but without any support in Albany it doesn’t wind up going anywhere.
It’s a great idea whose time has not come and likely never will.