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A sampling of editorials from around New York

Associated Press Published: November 21, 2012
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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Post on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's latest comments on hydraulic fracturing.

Nov. 21.

The fix is in; the frack may be out.

Gov. Cuomo confirmed yesterday what nearly everybody suspected: With a three-person panel of health experts named just last week, the state will now miss the Nov. 29 deadline for the Department of Environmental Conservation to issue regulations for the natural-gas extraction process called hydrofracturing, i.e. fracking.

"I don't see how they are going to make a deadline by next week and do it properly," Cuomo told Post state columnist Fredric U. Dicker's radio show.

Ah, as the feet drag.

Cuomo has been talking a responsible fracking game for years now, but this delay could invite another public comment period — translating into further delay, possibly leading to the state's four-year-plus moratorium on fracking never being lifted.

Perhaps that's what the governor wants?

Cuomo sure sounded yesterday like he was now buying into much of the anti-fracking movement's rhetoric: "People don't want to be poisoned," he said, adding, "There's a fear of poisoning."

Seriously? Even the enviro-extremists at the U.S. EPA reject the idea that fracking is unsafe.

He's even dismissing fracking's economic benefits for the economically depressed Upstate region: "There's a great number of people who say jobs aren't going to happen either," asserted the governor.

Pennsylvania's fracking-generated jobs explosion undercuts that argument.

Actually, Cuomo's stalling speaks for itself — and his actual comments amount to prospective rationalizations.

Maybe that's why he also expressed full confidence in a special health-impact study panel that he introduced into the process last week.

Talk about stacked against fracking!

In a Monday letter to Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, who selected the health-review panel, Lee Fuller, executive director of Energy in Depth, notes the public history of the three panelists:

—Lynn Goldman of George Washington University has warned of "troubling health risks in communities near fracking operations . . . toxic chemicals in the water, polluted air and even seismic activity."

—UCLA's Richard Jackson alleges "serious worker exposures . . . will likely cause sillicosis and other lethal diseases."

—John Adgate of the Colorado School of Public Health helped conduct an error-filled study on fracking ultimately dismissed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Sure doesn't exactly sound like an "objective" panel.

So, is the fix in?

Inaction can speak louder than words, too.

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The Buffalo News on the Thruway Authority's proposal to raise tolls for trucks.

Nov. 20.

You know things are bad when the vice chairwoman blasts the New York State Thruway Authority board, and has good reason to do so.

Donna Luh is outraged at the blatant lack of transparency surrounding the authority's ill-forged idea of a 45 percent toll hike for trucks. Tempers are rising after the authority postponed two meetings on the toll hike at the last minute. Luh blew her fuse the other day when word of postponing a board meeting wasn't sent out until after 9 p.m. the night before. The words, "Are you kidding?" crept into her mind, she told The News.

That's what the public wants to know when it comes to this preposterous proposal. A 45 percent toll hike — when tolls were supposed to have been eliminated in 1996, when the highway's original construction debt was paid — is ridiculous. And so is the board meeting shuffle going on that has Luh so upset.

Luh says she's even beginning to think that the 45 percent figure isn't what this state needs. She's not alone.

From truckers to Unshackle Upstate, everyone wants to know what Thruway Authority officials are thinking, other than using the threat of a sky-high increase to ease the eventual blow of, say, a 35 percent increase. Who knows? The Cuomo administration hopes to raise $90 million in additional revenue for the Thruway Authority. One theory is that it can then skip over to the bond market to help finance a $5 billion Thruway bridge project over the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties.

Voila! Or, not.

The New York State Motor Truck Association insists that a 45 percent toll hike would cripple some firms and most assuredly result in trucking companies and their clients passing along the cost of the toll increase to consumers. Or some truckers could decide not to take the Thruway, cutting into the anticipated revenue stream.

There are ways around this mess, involving some belt-tightening and getting rid of onerous expenses such as the maintenance costs of a non-Thruway highway in Westchester County and perhaps the biggest farce, the state's money-losing canal system.

The bad idea of using Thruway tolls to pay for the canal was most recently pointed out by State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma. The Thruway and canal system were joined 20 years ago during the administration of the governor's father, Mario M. Cuomo, as part of a scheme to help balance the state's general fund.

Gallivan has noted that Thruway traffic is down 10 percent in the past seven years while the authority's expenses have risen 20 percent.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli gets extra credit for being at the forefront of the opposition to the toll hike. He is calling on the authority to look for savings by improving its management of the system.

That work involves eliminating vacant positions, reducing overtime and marketing unused property for sale or lease. DiNapoli also cites a recent analysis by auditors in his department that showed more could be done to collect millions of dollars in E-ZPass tolls and fees that go unpaid.

It's time for the Thruway Authority to put the brakes on a bad idea.

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The New York Times on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Michigan's affirmative action policies.

Nov. 20

In a persuasive ruling last week, a majority of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Michigan's ban on race-conscious affirmative action policies. The ban violated the United States Constitution's equal protection clause by placing an unfair burden on racial minorities seeking to change those policies.

The ban, known as Proposal 2 and approved in a state referendum in 2006, amended the State Constitution to "prohibit all sex- and race-based preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting."

The court's 8-to-7 decision focused not on admissions policies per se but on the fact that the process by which the ban was approved — the referendum leading to a constitutional amendment — would inevitably require people who wished to reverse it "to surmount more formidable obstacles than those faced by other groups to achieve their political objectives."

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