John J. Interval wants the DRBC permanent fracking ban rejected for the sake of the economy and protection of property owner’s rights.
Protecting private property rights is a bedrock principle of a free society and a key to explaining American prosperity.
That principle is in danger of being subverted. The Delaware River Basin Commission, which consists of the governors of New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania, and the federal government, represented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, proposes a permanent ban on fracking for natural gas in the Delaware River watershed without any compensation for landowners who own the rights to gas resources and who stand to lose millions of dollars in royalties. It also translates into less revenue for local governments and school systems.
There would be an extremely high price to pay for a ban on fracking, since it would affect the shape of the region’s economy for decades to come.
The commission is scheduled to hold public hearings on the proposed ban later this month. It should be rejected and a new policy should be adopted that recognizes the value of fracking.
However, if we don’t speak out forcefully, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. The views of landowners and other stakeholders in energy production are far more important than many people think, the untapped gas deposits are huge and the technology for producing shale gas keeps getting better. Since 2010, gas production in Pennsylvania has surged by 920 percent.
The challenge now is not an absence of political support for natural gas production or public disinterest. It is the existence of a vacuum. Vocal support for fracking matters. In a diverse region like this one, the absence of an articulated public interest in promoting stable energy production produces a fertile ground for those Luddite wishing to withdraw from the world or creates a vacuum to be filled by ardent environmentalists who want to keep energy resources in the ground.
Fracking safety and efficiency have improved significantly since the commission imposed a de-facto moratorium on the process in 2010.
Energy costs in the Northeast are the highest in the nation, but fracking costs will keep falling, because the cost of fracking, in which a combination of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the shale at high pressure to extract the gas, depends on technology and technology costs always fall. A single drilling rig, for example, has already been used to crack shale horizontally in multiple places and advances in seismology are used to mine the most productive seams.
What’s more, wastewater from fracking is being recycled, preventing the degradation of groundwater and reducing the need to store or discharge the liquid in wells.
Pipelines that carry water from one well to another are replacing trucks.
In Pennsylvania, fracking has lowered energy costs, reduced pollution and carbon dioxide emissions and created thousands of jobs. But the state, and the region, will pay a high price for a permanent ban on fracking in the river’s watershed. It should not be allowed to happen.
John J. Interval is a professional petroleum geologist. He lives in Bridgeville, Pa.