In July, Catell wrote an opinion column for Newsday entitled, “Don’t reject hydraulic fracturing out of hand.” Since 2008, he has donated $15,000 to Cuomo’s campaign.
Cuomo's energy plan makes it clear that he likes wind and suggests that he opposes coal. He has also long said that he favors closing the Indian Point Energy Center, in Westchester County, when its license expires in 2013. Cuomo, who has called the plant’s proximity to New York City a catastrophe in waiting, has made no specific proposal to replace the power Indian Point generates. The New York Independent System Operator, which maintains the state’s electrical grid, warns that the plant is necessary in the short term to ensure reliable power during high-use periods.
In response to such concerns, Cuomo's plan emphasizes conservation, renewable power and grid improvements. The potential absence of Indian Point also represents an opportunity for the power companies donating to Cuomo to fill the void in the state’s energy supply.
Cuomo’s four years at attorney general offer precious few clues about his preferences on energy; during his term, he seemed to impartially investigate and prosecute energy companies that use a variety of fuel sources. In 2007, he investigated five power companies seeking to build coal plants in other states, questioning whether their investors had been fully advised of the financial costs that their emissions could create. Beginning in 2008, he began cracking down on conflicts of interest involving local officials and wind power companies. And in 2009 he charged that Fortuna, a natural gas drilling company, had misled upstate landowners into signing unfavorable leases. The company settled and agreed to pay $192,000 to the state.
It's also possible that he will operate independently of his donors. (Most of them – including Capozza’s law firm – are so large and diversified that it is impossible to know their exact reasons for supporting any candidate.) Still, companies that use natural gas have a clear interest in hydrofracking, which could provide their power plants with plentiful fuel, nearby, at a time when demand is high.
One such company, the electricity giant Competitive Power Ventures, has donated $75,000 to Cuomo’s campaign since 2009 through various subsidiaries. The company has proposed building a natural gas plant in Wawayanda, New York, and its portfolio includes both natural gas and wind-power generation facilities – two types of power plants that Cuomo endorses in his energy position paper. Another firm, Spectra Energy Corporation, which distributes natural gas, donated $1,000, plus $2,000 from a subsidiary, Texas Eastern Transmission.
In the end, whenever that may be, the final decision on hydrofracking may involve more than just the governor’s office. The new attorney general could also have a say if the DEC’s eventual policy decisions don’t satisfy everyone, Riverkeeper’s Michaels said.
If that happens, he said, “Then the state is likely to wind up in court.”