Debunking the Most Fact-Challenged Anti-Fracking Claims Made at Last Week’s DRBC Hearings

A recent Harrisburg Patriot News op-ed really got to the heart of the issue regarding the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) draft regulations that include a ban on high volume hydraulic fracturing. Retired Marietta College petroleum engineering professor, Robert Chase said in his op-ed:

“The Delaware River Basin Commission’s proposed ban on fracking is a grave mistake. It’s a retreat from economic and environmental progress driven not by science but fear-mongering. Fracking is safe and Pennsylvania deserves the benefits it offers.” (emphasis added)

This fear-over-fact mentality is something EID has been describing throughout the long debate over whether or not shale development should be allowed to occur in the DRB, and really it’s at the heart of the entire anti-fracking movement. It was present in full force at the public comment hearings that took place last week in Waymart and Philadelphia. Although much of the testimony in favor of a ban on fracking was steeped more in fear than facts, two testimonies in particular really stood out.

These weren’t the most over the top testimonies or even the most outlandish statements made throughout the four hearings – and believe me there were some doozies – but they were statements that have absolutely no basis in fact, made on behalf of organizations that individuals probably consider more “credible” sources for talking points. And that made what they said stand out all the more.

The first occurred in Waymart, when PennFuture’s Abby Jones claimed that fracking jeopardizes tourism, manufacturing and agriculture. These are three important staples to Pennsylvania’s culture and economy that have benefited from shale development.

Then in Philadelphia, the New York Sustainable Business Council’s Hilary Baum not only claimed that fracking hurts health and the environment – two oft-repeated claims by the anti-fracking crowd that EID delves into in great detail on EIDHealth.org and EIDClimate.org — but the economy as well. That’s right — someone from a business council actually said that fracking is bad for the economy!

Now here’s a healthy dose of reality:

Tourism

The tourism industry is thriving in America’s top oil and gas producing states – including in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region – as an analysis conducted by EID in 2017 found.

In fact, in Texas, which leads the United States in oil and natural gas production, tourism is the second biggest contributor to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In America’s Gulf Coast states, which are not only home to active oil and natural gas production, but most of the nation’s refineries, ethane cracker facilities, and 12 of the 14 operational or proposed U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities, the tourism industry is booming.

So, no, fracking has not detrimental to tourism in the most heavily drilled places in the country, and won’t be in the DRB either.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing across the country has benefited from the increased supply and lower costs of natural gas since the shale revolution took off.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) finds that there have been over 300 new U.S. chemical industry projects alone as a result of shale gas that have had major economic impacts, as the following infographic shows.

ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley recently explained,

“Natural gas and ethane is to the chemical industry as flour is to bakery.”

That’s no less true in Pennsylvania. In fact, a 2017 report from ACC found that because of the abundance of shale gas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky are poised to see a $35.8 billion boost in investment dollars by 2025, and a whopping $2.9 billion added to federal, state and local tax coffers. This would support 25,700 new chemical and plastic manufacturing jobs, 43,000 supplier industry jobs and 32,000 “payroll-induced” jobs in communities where workers spend their wages.

And that’s just from the chemical industry which is only one segment of manufacturing that can benefit from natural gas.

As Mark Denzler, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, told EID in the fall,

“According to recent studies, nearly 90 percent of manufacturers are optimistic about the economy and data shows that factory orders are at a 13-year high.  Innovative energy production, especially in shale with hydraulic fracturing, are helping lead this renaissance economy by creating low cost and efficient sources of energy. As the primary feedstock, it is also leading to a resurgence in the American chemical industry.”

To say that fracking has been detrimental to manufacturing when it is literally fueling the industry is a blatant falsehood and a clear example of how out of touch these anti-fracking organizations actually are with reality.

Agriculture

Contrary to the fearmongering over actual or perceived water contamination and other misinformation, agriculture in Pennsylvania has also benefited from shale development.

The Bradford County Conservation District (BCCD) released a study in 2015 titled “Agricultural Viability Study and Program” that analyzed farms in Bradford County from 2007 to 2012. During this time period, the county had 1,106 shale wells drilled – the majority of the over 1,400 total wells in the county today.

The Wyoming County Examiner reported on a presentation given by BCCD’s Mike Lovegreen on the study’s findings in November 2017:

“Back in 2007, concern was generated in certain quarters that the natural gas boom from Marcellus shale would cause a sharp decline in local farming.

“However, according to Mike Lovegreen from the Bradford County Conservation District, precisely the opposite occurred. Many local farmers, using money generated from natural gas royalties, upgraded their operations, allowing them to increase their productivity and profits.”

The study found:

  • Total number of farms increased from 1,457 to 1,629 (11.8 percent)
  • Total farm acreage increased from 266,635 to 307,990 acres (15.5 percent)
  • Average farm size increased from 183 to 189 acres (3.3 percent)
  • The market value of products sold increased from $121,311,000 to $128,794,000 (6.2 percent)
  • The estimated market value of land and buildings per farm increased from $558,698 to $700,259 (25.3 percent)
  • The estimated market value of all machinery and equipment per farm increased from $74,576 to $89,510 (20 percent)
  • In 2012, 327 farms hired 1,003 workers for a total payroll of $7.5 million compared to 288 farms hiring 999 workers with a payroll of $6.2 million in 2007. That may only be four more workers than in years past, but it reached 39 more farms and added 21 percent more money to the payroll amounts.

Dave Williams, the host of PA Farm Country Radio, said in an opinion piece published in the Lebanon Daily News in 2017,

Everywhere one turns in the rural areas of Pennsylvania from Washington County in the southwest to Susquehanna County in the northeast, the shale revolution is boosting agriculture. Whether it is providing new sources of farm capital, lowering fuel and fertilizer costs, providing off-farm employment or maintaining the critical infrastructure needed by the industry, shale gas is having a very positive impact on agriculture.

“Recapitalizing farming enterprises is one of the major challenges facing Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry. Low commodity prices can starve a farm unless it has economic staying power or alternative sources of capital to sustain itself. Natural gas has provided such capital.” (emphasis added)

The piece is chock full of information on the many ways shale has been beneficial to Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry, with Williams ending on a note that is the polar opposite of the claims made by PennFuture in Waymart:

Put it all together and there’s simply no doubt: the shale revolution has been a huge boost for Pennsylvania agriculture.”

Economy

The fact that a so-called business council would make the statement that fracking has not been beneficial to the economy is more shocking than the woman who claimed farm animals in the Marcellus “immediately” died from drinking frack water (And that was a pretty remarkable claim!)

There is no denying (unless you are the New York Sustainable Business Council) that shale development has been a boon for local, county, state and federal economies. Nationally, a 2017 report estimates that the oil and natural gas industry is estimated to support 10.3 million jobs. Job creation from shale development specifically, is estimated to be roughly 2.7 million, according to a 2015 analysis.

A 2017 study found that “communities within 100 miles of shale development experience more than $500,000 in increased wages, royalties, and business income for every $1 million invested in shale development.”

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) issued a report in 2016 that described the cost to drill a well in various shale plays, finding Marcellus costs range from $4.9 million to $7.9 million.

Even if we go with the low range estimate and say $5 million per well – there have been nearly 11,000 unconventional wells (10,969 as of January 31, 2018) drilled in Pennsylvania. That’s roughly $27.5 billion in increased wages, royalties, and business income.

Cabot Oil and Gas alone in only Susquehanna and Wyoming counties – directly on the other side of the DRB – has paid over $1 billion in royalties. And that’s just one company in a limited area.

This doesn’t even include the $1.2 billion in Impact Fees paid to Pennsylvania communities, or the investments made in other aspects of the industry. Recent projections show the total amount of Impact Fee money paid will reach approximately $1.4 billion this year. There is more than $23 billion being invested in new pipelines in the region and more than $10.5 billion invested in new natural gas-fired power plants. And all of these projects – from the well head to the end user – are creating jobs for Pennsylvanians.

Conclusion

There was no shortage of activist misinformation and fearmongering at the DRBC hearings, ranging from earthquakes to air quality – and everything in between. But it was the above four fact-challenged claims – that fracking is detrimental to tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and the economy – that show just how far the “Keep It In the Ground” movement will go in its ongoing campaign to deceive the public.

Speak Your Mind

*