For Cuomo’s Southern Tier council, is natural gas the answer?

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In Vestal, Broome County, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy just unveiled the Southern Tier’s economic development council, which will compete with 9 other regions for a piece of $1 billion in grants, tax breaks and other funding sources to kick start job creation and solidify the regions’ economic footing.

The Southern Tier, in particular, will be one to watch as it crafts its five-year strategic plan, which will serve as a mega-application for the funding.

Why? The ongoing debate over tapping the Marcellus Shale (and Utica Shale) that sits below that region.

Cuomo has said he’ll leave it up to the panels to come up with how they plan on rebuilding their economy, but has said they may want to consider targeting a specific industry.

A quick look at the Tier’s council, which is re-posted below, shows a number of business and labor representatives — such as Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce President Lou Santoni — who generally support natural gas drilling and the much-debated hydrofracking technique.

But the elected officials, who serve in an advisory capacity, show a greater mix of opinions.

Broome County Executive Pat Brennan, who took over for Barbara Fiala when she was tapped by Cuomo to head the state DMV, supports greater natural gas development, as does Chemung County Executive Thomas Santulli, who has pointed to the industry’s presence just across the Pennsylvania line as a reason for generally strong sales tax figures in his county.

There is opposition, however. The Tompkins County legislature chair, for example, is Martha Robertson, who has traveled to Albany numerous times to speak out against hydrofracking.

City of Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson has expressed serious concern with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s staffing levels, saying in a public hearing on the DEC’s first draft of its hydrofracking review that she envisions a “disastrous situation with gas drilling” if staffing levels stay at their current rate.

Another obstacle: high-volume hydrofracking is on hold in New York until the DEC wraps up its review, and there’s not a firm end date for that to happen. At the earliest, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens has said it could take place early next year.

Below is the Southern Tier’s council, courtesy of the governor’s office. The Long Island and Mid-Hudson regions will be announced later today.

David Skorton, President of Cornell University
Tom Tranter, President & CEO of Corning Enterprises

General Members
James (Jay) McNamara, President & CEO, Endicott Interconnect Technologies
David J. Patak, President & CEO, Lourdes Hospital
Daniel Spore, Vice President, Lockheed Martin Systems Integration
A. Scott Welliver, Chairman & CEO, Welliver McGuire Inc.
Linda M. Shumaker, President, Shumaker Engineering & Surveying, P.C.
Keith Baumann, Director of Finance, Howell Packaging
Patricia A. Cummings, Partner, Leonard & Cummings, LLC
Barbara J. Schindler, President & COO, Golden Artists Colors, Inc.
Uttara Prasad, President & CEO, Lin Industries, Inc.
Ernest Hartman, Business Manager, IBEW Local 139
Dr. C. Peter Magrath, President, Binghamton University
Dr. Candace Vancko, President, SUNY Delhi
Peg Ellsworth, Executive Director, MARK Project Inc.
Martin A. Dietrich, President & CEO, NBT Bank
Dr. Kathryn Boor, Dean of College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Cornell University
Diane Lantz, Executive Director, REDEC Relending Corporation
George Miner, President, Southern Tier Economic Growth, Inc.
Lou Santoni, President & CEO, Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce
Michael Stamm, President, Tompkins County Area Development, Inc.

Elected Officials
Broome County Executive
Chairman of Tompkins County Legislature
Chemung County Executive
Chairman of Tioga County Legislature
Chairman of Steuben County Legislature
Chairman of Schuyler County Legislature
Chairman of Chenango County Legislature
Chairman of Delaware County Legislature
Town of Union Supervisor
Mayor of the City of Ithaca
Mayor of the City of Elmira

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