Public Relations Consultant
New York State waits for natural gas development to return to the state where it all started, as if the Empire State was really Who-ville at Christmas. Christmas will come, of course, but meanwhile the Keystone State has Christmas in July.
Last week New Yorkers commemorated the fifth anniversary of the de facto moratorium that has prohibited high volume hydraulic fracturing activity from advancing our state’s economy. Just a couple days later, the executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition authored an op-ed for a Pennsylvania paper that declared it was like “Christmas in July” throughout her state due to the impact fees paid by operators there.
Some of the gifts under the Keystone State tree over the next two years have included:
• The sum of $3.7 million targeted by Clinton County to rebuild its 911 emergency communications system, with almost twice that much doing a similar project in Fayette County;
• A 5.9% reduction in property taxes for Lawrence County property owners; and hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in converting municipal trucks to homegrown, cleaner burning compressed natural gas in some Centre County Townships, with a CNG fueling station built there, too.
And here in New York, we might as well change our state name to Who-ville. The not-as-clean-burning coal in our stocking is the evidence the natural gas industry – rightfully so – is drilling in other, more welcoming places (in 2008, more than 500 vertical wells permits were issued in New York and by 2012, that number shrunk 163). Some family farms – with mineral-rich land – were foreclosed on, with others in jeopardy. A few places like Windsor, Horseheads and Elmira, New Yorkers are able to benefit from Pennsylvania’s bounty, while the rest of New York watches and waits.
The week wasn’t without some optimism for New York residents. The Department of Energy released some preliminary data from its significant water tests in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, which showed that chemicals from hydraulic fracturing sites didn’t contaminate the ground water there.) While report was careful to say that these are initials reports and the data gathering is continuing, this news echoes what industry experts and former EPA chief Lisa Jackson have stated repeatedly: high volume hydraulic fracturing has not contaminated any groundwater. Hydrogeologist John Conrad said it succinctly when he was interviewed on Fred Dicker’s Talk 1300 radio program, “The results of the study are unsurprising.” It’s still a victory for natural gas advocates. We’ll take it.
Call it an early Christmas in July gift, but just 10 days prior, the Empire Energy Forum hosted another webinar, “Hydraulic Fracturing and the Protection of Groundwater,” presented by Tim Erickson from Moody and Associates. In under 30 minutes, Tim carefully detailed the process to the online audience. He explained how time-tested and safe the process is, and what those not-so-scary chemicals are. He illustrated that Pennsylvania doesn’t regulate its private water sources for quality (and the Commonwealth has plenty of private water sources), hence almost 40-percent of these wells fail at least one quality standard test PRIOR to Marcellus activity.
Then he showed the lengthy list of water testing regimens required by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which tests way beyond the scope of water well quality. Finally, he showed that in the 4,000 Marcellus wells drilled in North-central, Pennsylvania to date, there have been ZERO documented cases of hydraulic fracturing fluids migrating to the subsurface to harm groundwater sources. Yep. Not a one. He even candidly showed the lessons learned in Pennsylvania and how New York’s tough regulatory structure will provide us with extra protection. (See the entire presentation here.)
With evidence like Tim’s, and the preliminary Department of Energy report, and growing list of positive impacts in Pennsylvania (where water is safe, people are working, communities are thriving, and revenue from the industry is contributing to community improvements), it does give New York landowners and energy users more cause for reflection as we enter year six.
Our time will come, New York. ‘Til then, we’ll wait like it’s Christmas Eve all over again.