Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update: 7/23/12

Frackers Fund University Research That Proves Their Case
The 2009 report predicted drillers would shun Pennsylvania if new taxes were imposed, and lawmakers cited it the following year when they rejected a 5 percent tax proposed by then- Governor Ed Rendell.
“As an advocacy tool, it worked,” Michael Wood, research director with the non-profit Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said in an interview. “If people wanted to find a reason to vote against having the industry taxed in that way, that gave them reason to do it.”
What the study didn’t do was note that it was sponsored by gas drillers and led by an economist, now at the University of Wyoming, with a history of producing industry-friendly research on economic and energy issues. The researcher, Tim Considine, said his analysis was sound and not biased by industry funding.
Critics of fracking often raise alarms about groundwater pollution, air pollution, and cancer risks, and there are still many uncertainties. But some of the claims have little — or nothing— to back them.
For example, reports that breast cancer rates rose in a region with heavy gas drilling are false, researchers told The Associated Press.
Fears that natural radioactivity in drilling waste could contaminate drinking water aren't being confirmed by monitoring, either.
And concerns about air pollution from the industry often don't acknowledge that natural gas is a far cleaner burning fuel than coal.
"The debate is becoming very emotional. And basically not using science" on either side, said Avner Vengosh, a Duke University professor studying groundwater contamination who has been praised and criticized by both sides.
Chamber of Commerce officials have begun a new effort to lobby officials in Pennsylvania and other states not to increase energy firms' costs for drilling and piping natural gas from underground Marcellus Shale.
Chamber officials from Washington and Harrisburg say they will spend millions of dollars on the new "advocacy and education" campaign, as they called it.
It's aimed at persuading Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and other states with underground shale gas deposits not to hurt the fast-growing natural gas industry by enacting costly new taxes or environmental regulations.
Mark Price sends us to Donald Gilliland on the PA Chamber’s practice of overstating the gas industry’s broader economic benefits:
In case you missed it Patriot-News columnist Donald Gilliland eviscerates the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry for using suspect job numbers in a Marcellus gas public relations campaign. To loyal readers this is old hat but for our new regular readers let me take a moment to remind you about the two kinds of job numbers available on Marcellus gas extraction.  First there are counts of actual jobs based on government data sets (see page 3 (pdf)) .
These counts capture pretty well (still with some overstatement) the direct jobs created by gas wells but they miss some of the indirect jobs, new staff at the local hotel or fast food restaurant for example.  To get at indirect jobs you have to make an educated guess about how much economic activity Marcellus gas extraction might be generating using models of the economy.  The more generous your guesses the greater the job creation your model attributes to Marcellus gas extraction. No surprise the Chamber’s scrumtrilescent public relations campaign relied on one of the most generous estimates available.
The worst U.S. drought in a half century is putting pressure on natural-gas drillers to conserve the millions of gallons of water used in hydraulic fracturing to free trapped gas and oil from underground rock.
From Texas to Colorado to Pennsylvania, farmers, activists and opponents of the technique, also known as fracking, are using the shortage of rain to push the industry to recycle water and reduce usage -- efforts that could prove costly to the industry.

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