NY Daily News digs up Cuomo anti-gas-drilling report

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office isn't the most press-friendly shop in town, even for New York state government. When the Watershed Post was reporting on their recent actions against hospitals in the NYC watershed, I wasn't able to get a comment from them, despite multiple emails and phone calls. (Their press releases often don't even have contact information listed.)

Well, here's an interesting tidbit: The New York Daily News had to file a FOIL request to get a hold of a report written three months ago by Philip Bein, the state's watershed inspector general, that recommends the state consider banning drilling in the New York City watershed.

Cuomo's conclusions are contained in a 128-page report filed three months ago by a little-known official in his office, who refused to provide it until the Daily News requested it under the Freedom of Information Law.

The report says the state's drilling plan "should include consideration of ... prohibiting such drilling in that watershed" - and "should include additional protective mitigation measures."

A report filed by Cuomo's office taking a position on a policy matter is a public document, and New York law (a topic on which the Attorney General's office ought to be singularly well-informed) requires that it be made available. The Daily News surmises that the secrecy is part of an effort to keep from alienating upstate voters.

Upstate residents have long had a grudge against the city about its water supply.

The city tries to block development around the reservoirs and buys up property near them to keep the water quality pure. Locals say that stops the growth and jobs they need, while putting limits on their land.

A candidate running statewide would naturally try to avoid angering either side for as long as he can.

A few observations. First: Gas is by no means a clear-cut upstate/downstate issue. There is a staggering diversity of opinion among residents of the New York City watershed about whether (and how) to engage in gas drilling. Second: If secrecy and obfuscation is Cuomo's plan for courting upstate votes, he's doing it wrong. Third: Reporters preparing for a Cuomo governorship had better have a stack of FOIL requests handy.