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A Tale of Two Counties: The Fracking Difference

Dr. Michael Morrongiello
Psychologist and Steuben County Landowner


The recent history of two counties, one in New York State and the other in Pennsylvania, tells us everything about fracking and the fracking difference.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the spring of hope in Bradford County, PA; it was the winter of despair in Steuben County, NY. These two beautiful, mostly rural counties, separated by only 21 miles, are economically worlds apart.

Taxes, regulations and the ban on gas development are killing Steuben County. A family of four would save $1,389 in yearly taxes by moving to Pennsylvania. Gas development has been an economic game-changer for Bradford County.

fracking difference

Farmland in rural Steuben County

Unemployment in Steuben County is 6.6%; Bradford’s is 5.7%. Steuben’s median household income is $43, 867; in Bradford it’s almost $47,000. From 2006 to 2010, Bradford County’s tax revenues soared by 35%. Gas royalties paid to landowners from January 2008 to December 2012 total an astounding $386 million plus, and lifetime royalty payments are projected to be $4.3 billion. This massive investment was an economic jump-start, electrifying the Bradford County economy. Landowners don’t stuff their money into mattresses; they buy new vehicles, improve their homes and buy new farm equipment.

For many family farms, gas development has enabled them to survive and continue the noble work of feeding their community and the nation.

Bradford County saw an increase of 1,383 jobs from 2007 to 2012. Bringing one well on line requires 420 people in different occupations: welders, laborers, office workers and truck drivers, regular folks all, just looking for a chance to succeed. The average pay for gas industry workers is $90, 000; for ancillary employees, $47,000. Between 2010 and 2014 six new hotel projects in Bradford County employed carpenters, bricklayers, laborers, electricians and plumbers.

Fracking Difference

Natural Gas Industry Employment Gains. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014a.

What about Steuben County? “Start Up New York” has cost $53 million and has produced 76 jobs across New York State. The Regional Economic Development Council has recycled $303 million dollars of our money across the entire southern tier and has produced absolutely nothing. If Governor Cuomo wanted to see the grim results of a command and control statist economy he needn’t have gone to Cuba – he could have come to Steuben County.

Governor Cuomo fumbled a golden opportunity to revive upstate; it’s not rocket science. Just look across the border and do what they do. But he banned gas development based on phony future health risks. He’s really looking after his political future, not our future. Cuomo’s decision is an epic blunder that will become a case study in executive management books and training courses on what NOT to do. Recently the EPA, staffed with Obama greenies, has again said that gas development has no widespread impact on drinking water. Wouldn’t it be great if our governor green-lighted gas development in New York to rescue Steuben County from slow economic death.

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8 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Counties: The Fracking Difference

  1. While Start Up New York seems to have produced truly abysmal results, it is a “start up” itself. To be fair, let’s see where that program is in another two years.

    As for Bradford County, that EPA study did find instances where the totality of operations associated with HVHSWF were also associated with ground water contamination, putting the “there has never been one instance of …” canard to rest. One of the retrospective study areas was in Bradford County PA, where contamination was found.

    • The fact you have to qualify your statement with a caveat about “the totality of operations associated with HVHSWF” tells us who’s spinning out canards. Here’s what the EPA said about Bradford County: “No evidence of impacts on homeowner wells and springs from flowback water, produced water or injected hydraulic fracturing fluids was found in the study.” See: http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/nepa_report_508_km.pdf. Claiming that HF caused groundwater contamination in Bradford’s case is akin to saying pharmaceutical manufacturing causes overdoses of narcotics.

      • “the totality of operations associated with HVHSWF”

        No weasel words there, Tom. I’ve been sayin’ it from day 1. The weasel is looking over your shoulder, not mine.

        I’m going by an earlier draft that found such evidence in Bradford. I see no reason, based on what I read in that draft, for them to remove it.

          • Oy, Tom, it’s from two years ago. I’ll have to dig it out of my computer somewhere, but I am 100% certain it’s there.

            I’m in Albany for a week, remind me on the 20th.

          • later.

            in the meantime, here’s a study reported on by your dear friends at State Impact:


            Residents (on Paradise Road) experienced foamy water, which when tested by several different labs did not reveal any contaminants that could account for the foam.

            Garth Llewellyn, a hydrogeologist hired by one of the families along Paradise Road, found that perplexing.

            “If you look at water like that, that’s not natural,” said Llewellyn. “And the fact that you can analyze for a standard list of [compounds] and they come back fine, that’s a bit concerning to me. And if I lived at this property, I wouldn’t have drank the water. And I’m a hydrogeologist.”

            So Llewellyn teamed up with researchers at Penn State, including Dorman, to investigate. And what they found, the 2-BE and the hydrocarbons, linked not to the deep hydro-fracking itself, but to earlier stages of the gas drilling process.“We can say with confidence that gas migration happens,” said Llewellyn. “These [water] wells were impacted by natural gas, and we’re finding signatures that are very similar to frack flowback samples that Dorman collected.”

            The new method can detect chemicals at parts per trillion, rather than the typical parts per billion or parts per million. The researchers also used a different method than the typical water sample test recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets protocols on what to test for, and what levels are considered a public health threat.

            “It allows us to look at broad signatures instead of target compounds like 2-BE, benzene, or toluene,” said Llewellyn. “That’s important because essentially if you have a predefined list [of targeted chemicals] and you go out into the field and sample for it, but you have no prior knowledge of what was spilled, your target analysis may or may not be applicable to whatever the issue is.”

            Llewellyn says their study looks at the issue comprehensively, and examines a body of evidence. For example, methane began to bubble out of the nearby Susquehanna river in ten different spots soon after drilling began. Once the wells were remediated, the bubbling stopped.

            “The point of the paper is emphasizing the use of multiple lines of evidence and then looking at the forest rather than getting lost in the trees,” he said.

          • So, you’re relying upon evidence “linked not to the deep hydro-fracking itself” and methane migration. You just made my case.

  2. This is just a case of the old adage, just keep repeating the same old lie, over and over again, and maybe, just maybe, someone will believe you. It would be nice to know what part of New York City this unnamed blogger lives in, and what does he, or she, heat their hi-rise apartment with? This particular blogger should be able to proudly respond by saying, “why of course, I use solar panels”!

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