New York Town Threatens to Secede Over Cuomo's Fracking Ban

Upstate New York towns facing tough times due to fracking ban

FBN's Adam Shapiro talks to residents from New York State whose towns have been impacted by Governor Andrew Cuomo's fracking ban.

The road to prosperity runs through Conklin, New York -- but people here say the good times keep passing them by.  

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Kenny Brown works at a local pizza shop and says the economy is struggling and depressed.

"There's barely jobs left. There's no one left to spend the money, and we need something to bring money in and people to stay in the area," Brown told the FOX Business Network. That something, according to Kenny, is fracking.

Just a few miles from Conklin, across the border in Pennsylvania, thousands of wells are fracking the Marcellus Shale, deep below the ground, releasing valuable natural gas. Fracking has created 30,000 jobs in Pennsylvania over the the last ten years, and will add roughly $26 billion annually to Pennsylvania's economy by 2020, according to IHS Global Insight.

But New York counties and towns on the Pennsylvania border, an area called the Southern Tier, can only watch as their neighbors reap the rewards from fracking. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided recently to extend a statewide ban on high volume fracking, despite estimates fracking would create 15 to 18,000 jobs in economically depressed areas like the Southern Tier.

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Dan Fitzsimmons owns 185 acres of land on the New York side of the border and says fracking would bring his family millions of dollars in royalties from leases with gas companies. But Fitzsimmons can't earn one penny extracting the gas from his land because of the ban. He says Gov. Cuomo made a political decision that hurts people in the Southern Tier.

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"We had a lot of dreams for our land. I can't do those things, that income is there, I could have it -- but the governor stopped us," Fitzsimmons said.

People in Conklin wonder what they can do to create jobs without fracking. Big businesses like GE and IBM left long ago and today unemployment in the Southern Tier runs higher than the rest of New York. More than 17% of the people in Broome County, home to Conklin, live in poverty-- which is also higher than the New York average. Conklin town supervisor Jim Finch has proposed that his town and others secede from New York and join Pennsylvania. Tom Sinclair, a professor of public administration at Binghamton University just north of Conklin, says it would be possible to secede.

"If the state of New York legislature and the state of Pennsylvania's legislature agree to this transfer it could happen. As a practical matter it would be much more difficult," said Sinclair, adding that he doubts the New York general assembly would ever approve it.

In Conklin they hope Gov. Cuomo changes his decision. Furniture restorer Al Fortunato is tired of watching people lose their jobs and move. He says Gov. Cuomo "needs to pay more attention to the Southern Tier and forget about New York City and get some money, income up here and help us out."

Without fracking, Fortunato and the other people in Conklin worry their future will be like Dan Fitzsimmons' plans for his land, just a dream.

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