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Which Political Leader Will Deal with “Weather on Steroids?"

Now the question is: Will any of our elected officials truly step up to become a leader in the New Green Growth Economy?

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But Bloomberg is far from a progressive dream and a still a long-shot for true environmental leadership. One big red flag is Bloomberg’s $6 million investment (via a gift to the Environmental Defense Fund) to define “safe fracking regulations” – a move unpopular with many who think fracking can’t be done safely and should be banned. For Bloomberg to lead the new Green Growth Economy his championing of shale gas will bear reconsideration for two key reasons:

The plan to run gas pipelines through the very regions hardest hit by the storm—(the pipelines are now proposed to run from New Jersey under the Hudson River into lower Manhattan as well as other hard-hit areas) may need to be scrapped due to the high risks posed by a history of pipeline explosions and fires. The same concerns will apply to pipelining gas south through storm vulnerable Westchester and upstate New York.

The gas and oil companies, whose activities generate weather disruptive carbon emissions, lack a history of accountability for the downside risks they incur. But perhaps they would be more amenable to persuasion by a seasoned Wall Streeter such as Bloomberg.

Andrew Cuomo

As a popular governor likely to be elected for a second term, as well as a contender for the 2016 Presidential Democratic nomination, Governor Andrew Cuomo can have a major role if he wants it. As governor, he will receive and spend federal disaster relief monies dedicated to rebuilding of infrastructures. The question is whether he will have the kishkas (a Yiddish term for guts) to reshape New York as a leader of the New Green Economy. Cuomo took his first and laudable steps towards environmental leadership this past week, when he said that “I said to the president kiddingly the other day we have a 100-year flood every two years now.”

But Cuomo parsed his words more than did Mayor Bloomberg. Easing into the term “climate change,” in a briefing on Tuesday, Cuomo said that:

“There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality.”

But speaking on the Rachel Maddow show, Cuomo stopped short of naming the cause when he mused,

“We can argue about whether the cause was human behavior or a cycle of weather patterns. But you can’t argue about the effect. Long term if you conclude its human behavior than you want to eliminate that activity. But we need to move forward rather than play ping pong in our political brain.”

Cuomo knows what it’s like to be in the middle of a ping pong game. As governor, he has deliberated about whether or not to allow fracking in New York, which is now on hold pending a health impacts assessment. But the ever more frequent “hundred year hurricanes” Cuomo cites will inevitably alter considerations about the extended population-wide impacts of fracking.

Many of the upstate regions with frackable shale gas are known flood zones. Changing weather and increased flooding increase the levels and reach of fracking chemicals migrating from drill sites into local streams, and rivers, as well as into underground drinking water and agricultural lands. This agriculture serves as one of New York State’s largest industries, as well as the source of much of New York City’s (and the Northeast region’s) local food supply.

The equation is simple: More extreme weather means more floods, which means more migration of fracking fluids and waste and therfore more people exposed to toxic industrial chemicals, heavy metals, and radioactivity.

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