President Donald Trump linked New York’s taxes to the state’s restrictions on fossil fuel development in a speech on Monday, arguing that such policies have hindered jobs and driven state costs up.
While in the city of Utica stumping for Rep. Claudia Tenney (R), Trump took aim at New York’s taxes, blasting them as “the highest” in the nation and arguing that “we should have no taxes” while accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) of falling short in exploring hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
“No, think of it, if they would’ve allowed a little bit of fracking, and taken some of the richness out of the land, which by the way is being sucked away by other states, you know they don’t have state lines underground, you know what that means?” Trump asked, addressing some 300 people in a room at Hotel Utica.
Arguing that untapped fossil fuels in the ground just go “down, down” and benefit other states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, the president argued that fracking and drilling in those states has created jobs.
“This place, it’s just so sad to see it,” he said, referencing New York. “And we had the potential to do it better than anybody, and now it’s dissipating, it’s dissipating. Because that stuff flows, do you understand that, it flows.”
Indicating a horizontal line with his hands to indicate flowing, the president then made turning motions, seemingly to describe the process of fracking.
“And they probably have those little turns, you know they make the turns at the border, it goes like this, right?” he said, motioning a curving shape, before returning to the topic of New York’s finances.
“And all of a sudden, some day, you’re not going to have that underground maybe so much, and it’s a shame,” Trump said, “’cause you could have had no taxes, you could’ve had the lowest taxes instead of the highest taxes, and it’s very sad to see what’s happened with New York.”
New York does have a high tax burden, a statistic that correlates to things like high local property taxes. The state also has a disproportionately high percentage of millionaires, along with a large percentage of homes worth more than $2 million, according to PolitiFact — factors that have contributed to high taxes.
What correlation might exist between fracking for natural gas and low taxes is unclear. The Trump administration has touted fossil fuel development as a job creator and economic boon, scrapping Obama-era rules for fracking on federal land and rolling back regulations more broadly. The president has honed in on the dying coal industry in particular, which is notably shedding jobs to natural gas fracking efforts.
Fracking itself is associated with air and water pollution, in addition to dangers posed to both the environment and human health. The process involves high-pressure injections of chemicals and sand-laced water into rock, allowing oil and gas to become exposed. Such practices threaten water and nearby residents, in addition to increasing the likelihood of earthquakes.
Those dangers have prompted states like New York to take drastic measures. Under pressure from environmental advocates, Gov. Cuomo banned fracking in the state in 2015, following Vermont’s lead in 2012. The decision was unpopular in areas along New York’s border with Pennsylvania, where struggling communities have seen fracking as a lifeline. In the time since the decision, New York has increasingly invested in renewable energy, with an emphasis on solar and wind projects.
Environmental activists were among those in Utica on Monday protesting Trump’s visit, including representatives from the Sierra Club and other organizations. Rep. Tenney, the candidate Trump came to support, faces a challenge from state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica).
Protestors told a local news outlet that they supported Brindisi’s stances on health care and the environment, among other issues, and that they had come to oppose Tenney and Trump.
“The point of being out here right now is to let them know, to let Trump know and Tenney know, that we oppose their policies on taxes, on health care, on the environment,” protester Joelle Taylor said.