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Plan ignites a highly controversial federalism debate

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Plan ignites a highly controversial federalism debate

Kay, 12 - Cornell Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI) (David, “Energy Federalism: Who Decides?” July, cardi.cornell.edu/cals/devsoc/outreach/cardi/programs/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=1071714
Questions about energy production and consumption are acquiring renewed urgency in the 21 st Century. Some go to the heart of our nation’s system of federalism, as an underlying but everpresent friction mounts over the way in which decision making power has been divided between central and more locally distributed political units. What is at stake? According to one author, “the choice of regulatory forum often seems to determine the outcome of the controversy. That may explain why Americans have traditionally shed so much metaphorical and genuine blood deciding what are essentially jurisdictional disputes between governmental institutions.” i¶ A number of factors have raised these issues into greater prominence. Energy specific ¶ influences include the depletion of low cost oil, advances in energy extraction technology, and ¶ increased awareness of the link between climate change and energy consumption and ¶ production. Another element is the long standing but increasingly hardened absence of a broad based consensus over energy policy at the federal level, despite calls for such a policy ¶ that date back to at least the Nixon administration. These have been superimposed on shifting ¶ political trends in other areas, including the expanding national political divide. After the crest ¶ of federal adoption of new environmental legislation in the 1960’s and 1970’s, powerful and¶ complex cross currents arose. Mostly “conservative” and anti- (or anti-“big”) government ¶ forces mobilized in the devolution, deregulation, privatization, and property rights movements. ¶ In contrast, “progressive” movements evolved in response to increased globalization (of ¶ economic and environmental issues) and personalization (eg. of communications/information ¶ technology) by promoting global governance in some arenas and relocalization or local ¶ empowerment in others.¶ Several energy examples being played out in New York State, as well as in other states and on ¶ the national stage, serve as useful and representative illustrations of the fundamental but ¶ insufficiently appreciated tensions raised. The first involves the spread of the controversial ¶ hydraulic fracturing technology that is used to extract oil and gas from “unconventional” ¶ reserves of shale and other rocks. The second and third involve the generation and distribution ¶ of electricity: where the authority to site electricity generating stations is vested, and who has¶ the authority to site transmission lines that move electricity from their mostly rural points of extraction or generation to their mostly urban points of consumption. ii These are but a few among many examples that highlight the extent to which the proliferating threads of debate about energy federalism are being cinched into an increasingly dense tangle.

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