26 Jul 2011

Fracking and the Constitution

Another guest post from JW (earlier post):

In the Spring 2011 issue of Trout Unlimited's magazine the following quote appeared in "Pocket Water" (page 9) in a story about TU's position on fracking in New York State:
The Governor ignored the will of the people - as expressed by the New York legislature - as well as his earlier statements that gas drilling won't be allowed in New York until we can be sure that it won't harm the environment.
"The will of the people" sounds good, sounds right, but if you are on a different side of the issue, "the will of the people" becomes "the tyranny of the majority".

Fortunately we live in a constitutional republic, a country ruled by laws, and not ruled by men. Our rights are protected by the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and are not subject to the whims of the majority. Minorities, and even corporations, have rights, including property rights. The Governor would not be upholding his oath of office, "to support the constitution of the United States" (2006 New York Code, Article XIII) if he continuously bowed to "the will of the people".

Trout Unlimited -- and its members -- care deeply about clean water, as do I. If they want my continued financial support, they will also have care about the Constitution and individual rights.

What about fracking? Environmental laws and regulations have evolved to become more effective at protecting individuals from negative externalities. Even though fracking techniques have been used for many decades the recent increase in the use of these methods may mean that use has out run regulations. However, scrutiny is high on shale gas drilling and I am optimistic that regulations will be further developed that protect both the environment and property rights.