southern tier

Matt Richmond / WSKG

The town of Vestal, N.Y., near Binghamton, is well-placed for natural gas development.

Just across the border in Pennsylvania the industry is in full swing. Vestal is situated in one of the three counties in New York considered to be in the sweet spot of Marcellus Shale development.

But not everyone is ready to welcome the industry.

waitscm / via Flickr

The Cuomo administration announced Monday it will spend $102 million on flood control projects across the state.

But the repairs aren’t necessarily in response to last year’s flooding.

Projects in the Southern Tier, which suffered severe flooding after tropical storms Lee and Irene, will receive $26.7 million.

About half of that - some $13 million - is going to Tompkins County. That’s in spite of reporting just $2 million in costs from September’s flooding.

Suncor Energy / via Flickr

The recent announcement by Shell Chemical, that it plans to build an ethane cracker near Pittsburgh, figures to be a huge boon for the economy in Western Pennsylvania.

An ethane cracker processes ethane from natural gas operations into ethylene for making plastics.

The new plant is a multi-billion dollar investment, and the governors of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia all lobbied to bring it to their states.

New York's shared border with Pennsylvania makes it seem logical that the new plant in western Pennsylvania would add to demand for natural gas from New York.

But it won't.

Matt Richmond / WSKG

The Innovation Trail is taking a closer look at New York State's industrial development agencies, or IDAs. Follow our coverage by subscribing to the IDA RSS feed.

Richard D’Attilio is the executive director of the Broome County Industrial Development Agency.

Any project awarded tax breaks by the IDA comes across his desk. And any project that is rejected comes across his desk too.

D’Attilio started with the agency 18 years ago, turning it into - basically - a developer that gives away tax breaks.

“We are revenue-driven. We are independent and autonomous from the county, the government,”  says D’Attilio. “Once the board of directors has been put in place, they are the final word on all activity.”

That means only the nine member board of directors has a say in how the IDA spends money.

It’s not clear that the board, which meets once-a-month, actually gets involved in any meaningful way.

A review of more than a year of board meeting minutes found no projects that were rejected by the board after getting the OK from D’Attilio.

Matt Richmond / WSKG

Chip McElwee leads a virtual tour of flood damage, through Google Maps' satellite images. Six months after Tropical Storm Lee dumped twelve inches of water on the Southern Tier - and even after the images have been updated - the maps still show wide, dark scars dotting the Southern Tier.

"This is Big Choconut Creek. This creek is always a mess. This is not unusual," says the head of the Broome County Soil and Water Conservation District, which maintains the county's streams.

McElwee zooms in on a gash left by the creek flooding its banks.

"Look at this, it's huge - football fields," he says, pointing to the screen. The stream has eaten away chunks of backyards before receding.

"Where do you start? You just gotta go around, and it's band-aids. The triage part of it is maybe the most frustrating," says McElwee.