A tale of two counties... and fracking

The Daily Signal recently paid a visit to my neck of the woods and conducted some interviews on both sides of the New York – Pennsylvania border in the rural, upstate region. It’s an area which sits atop the Marcellus shale formation and is the source of one of the richest deposits of natural gas on the continent, if not in the world. But that invisible border between the states has revealed a stark contrast between the lives of residents on each side. As their report found, one state is thriving while the other is dying a slow death, and the only difference between them is government policy.

Marian’s Pizza Shack sits 10 miles north of the Pennsylvania line, an invisible boundary that separates this small business from economic opportunity.

After 23 years in business, owner Marian Szarejko has decided to sell her pizza shack.

“There are no jobs here,” Szarejko said. “Business has gone down so much that I am dipping into my savings just to keep this afloat.”

Szarejko’s decision echoes a common theme that has plagued the southern tier of upstate New York for years—a lack of economic development.

While Marian is throwing in the towel and leaving the area, fifteen miles away in Pennsylvania the scene is much different.

Doug McLinko, chairman of the Bradford County Board of Commissioners, has seen the impact natural gas has had in Pennsylvania and his county.

“We are the most drilled on county in the Marcellus Shale,” McLinko said. “We flow the most gas in the state. The last eight to ten years has been the most incredible boom of prosperity I have ever witnessed in my life.”

According to a 2014 report published by The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, Bradford County saw a 19 percent increase in taxable income from 2007 to 2010, providing additional revenue for investment in the county.

“We have seen 200 million dollars in market value go into our county,” McLinko said. “The ripple effects are we have cut taxes and eliminated out county debt.”

“When I look across the border to New York State, once again it is bad policy affecting awfully good people up there.”

In the rural Pennsylvania counties across the border, the taxes have been cut. Property values have risen. The county budgets are balanced and schools have been able to afford expansions and improvements. The roads get fixed. New small business open to support the workers who move to the area and take jobs in the gas fields.

Meanwhile, in Broome County, New York, the population has dropped by more than 2% in the last five years. To make this crystal clear, we’re not talking about a region where population growth fails to keep up with the rest of the state or nation. They’ve actually had a net loss of people. The 2014 unemployment rate in the county stubbornly stayed at almost 8%. In the same period, a stone’s throw away in Bradford County, PA it had already dropped to 5.8% and continues to fall.

And what of the dire warnings about how fracking was going to lead to zombies in the streets and the end of the world? There were a couple of fracking fluid spills in Pennsylvania a few years ago, but for the most part their records has been quite clean. Despite constant monitoring, markers in the fracking fluid have stubbornly refused to show up in the drinking water. Animals still flourish in the wild. And speaking as someone who travels the region constantly, I can assure you that I’ve yet to see a single zombie except on Halloween.

It’s a tale of two counties. One is flourishing and one is dying. And the fault for the death of this once prosperous region can be placed squarely at the feet of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Democrat Party. You wanted to stop the fracking, kids, and you managed to do it. Now enjoy the results. The video below is from the Daily Signal article linked above.