*UPDATE XX* EPA Official: “Crucify” Operators to “Make Examples” of Them
According to a recently released video, EPA Region 6 administrator Al Armendariz told an audience during a city council meeting in DISH, TX, that his philosophy of enforcement was, to put it nicely, less than objective.
UPDATE XX (2/22/2013, 9:33 am ET): As part of his last desperate defense of the baseless endangerment order against Range Resources, then-EPA Region 6 administrator Al Armendariz circulated a list of alleged casing problems due to Range’s operations — in Pennsylvania. Why a regional administrator would seek to highlight potential issues of a company operating in a different geological formation (and in a different EPA region) is unclear, although Armendariz’s comments about wantonly “crucifying” operators suggests a personal animosity could have been a factor. How else could one explain his decision to tarnish the company’s reputation in a manner that had absolutely nothing to do with operations in Parker County, Texas?
The list was uncovered in the latest EnergyWire report (subs. req’d) on the Parker County case, although it was buried several paragraphs deep in the story.
UPDATE XIX (2/8/2013, 10:51am ET): New emails obtained by EnergyWire show that then-administrator of Region 6, Al Armendariz, was discussing with others inside the EPA the possibility of Range not being at fault for methane concentrations in the Parker County water wells. Here’s how Mike Soraghan summarized the correspondence in his story earlier this week:
On Dec. 27, 2011, Armendariz outlined a position to take to Washington officials. His “least preferable” option included settling without requiring Range to provide water. But EPA would reserve the right to go after Range again with penalties if testing showed the company had contaminated the aquifer. (emphasis added)
So, a little over a year after Armendariz gleefully emailed local activists to “Tivo channel 8″ to see his agency impose a baseless endangerment order against Range Resources, and 11 months after clear scientific evidence was presented to state regulators confirming Range was not at fault, the EPA finally began quietly and confidentially discussing the possibility that their order was without merit.
This also raises important questions: Shouldn’t the EPA have had clear testing results showing contamination from Range’s activities before issuing its endangerment order against the company? And what does that say about the EPA’s own case against Range if the agency itself didn’t have enough evidence even a year after the fact? Of course, given Armendariz’s stated willingness to “crucify” gas companies solely so he could more easily control them, perhaps this strategy was bizarrely consistent with his method of enforcement.
UPDATE XVIII (1/15/2013, 9:02am ET): EnergyWire has obtained data from the EPA — made available through a FOIA request, full story here — showing naturally occurring methane in the water wells that now-former EPA Region 6 administrator Al Armendariz had claimed beyond all doubt were contaminated by natural gas development. The data came from tests conducted by Range Resources as part of an agreement with the EPA, and the specific findings suggest water quality is consistent with historical conditions in Parker County. Put differently, data obtained directly from the EPA even show that Armendariz’s endangerment order against Range Resources was baseless, a fact already strongly suggested by nearly all scientific evidence that was available to the EPA when the order itself was issued in 2010.
Perhaps Armendariz, who now works for the anti-natural gas Sierra Club, should have paid more attention to credible evidence instead of working behind the scenes with local activists to “crucify” oil and gas companies.
UPDATE XVII (10/31/2012, 10:45am ET): At a recent event sponsored by the Society of Environmental Journalists, Al Armendariz doubled down on his baseless finding of water contamination in Parker County. In response, Range Resources has sent a letter to the former EPA official, reminding him that his recent comments are “contradicted by facts, science, independent expert analysis, the final adjudicated decision of the Railroad Commission of Texas, the EPA’s internal documents, and sworn testimony from EPA’s sole witness to testify about [his] order.” The letter further requests that Armendariz stop making “false and disparaging comments” about the company that he wrongfully maligned.
It’s not clear why Al Armendariz, recently removed from a top post at the Environmental Protection Agency for saying that the government should “crucify” bad actors in the energy industry, abruptly canceled plans to testify before a House panel on Wednesday.
But it is clear that he was in Washington that day and met with someone — at the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental organization.
On Wednesday afternoon, when a reporter visited the Sierra Club’s Washington headquarters just a few blocks from Capitol Hill, Armendariz’s name was written on the sign-in sheet as having been the last person to visit the office. The visit apparently came only a few hours after Armendariz had infuriated Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee when he canceled his scheduled testimony on EPA enforcement issues without offering a reason.
So, just to recap: Prior to becoming Region 6 administrator for the EPA, Al Armendariz’s claim to fame was authoring a study about air emissions that, even at the time, air quality regulators for the state strongly disavowed, and since then have definitively debunked. As administrator, he maintained a close relationship with anti-shale activists, said his method of enforcing regulations was to “crucify” oil and gas companies, and even issued an endangerment order against Range Resources that was so lacking in scientific merit that the EPA itself had to withdraw the order. And now, instead of attending a hearing in front of a House committee at which he had agreed to appear, he chooses to meet with the Sierra Club, an activist organization that has made no apology for being for natural gas before it was against it.
Tough day for those who claim Mr. Armendariz has never been improperly swayed by professional opponents of oil and gas development.
UPDATE XV (5/4/2012, 8:21am ET): A must-read editorial from the Washington Post says the EPA is “earning a reputation for abuse,” citing the Sackett case and the events surrounding Al Armendariz. The final two sentences are particularly apt:
The agency’s officers must have a clear sense when to deploy its mighty power and when to exercise discretion. That’s true for the sake of the economy and to ensure that the EPA will be able to continue its necessary work for years to come.
Also be sure to check out Kim Strassel’s piece in the Wall Street Journal today, which has much more on the preceding events in Parker County than what most other outlets have included in their stories.
UPDATE XIV (4/30/2012, 3:42pm ET): Armendariz’s replacement will be Sam Coleman, who served as EPA’s point man in New Orleans during the response to Hurricane Katrina. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, meanwhile, issued the following statement: “I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the agency. We are all grateful for Dr. Armendariz’s service to EPA and to our nation.”
UPDATE XIII (4/30/2012, 12:04pm ET): The Dallas Morning News reports that Al Armendariz has resigned, and has posted his letter of resignation (which is also below):
I have been honored to serve as your regional administrator for EPA’s region 6 office the last 2 and 1/2 years. I never once forgot that the reason I was appointed was to serve you, to act as your voice, and to work day and night to better protect the environment and your safety.
Today I am resigning my position as regional administrator. This was not something that was asked of me by Administrator Jackson or the White House. It is a decision I made myself. I had become too much of a distraction, and no one person is more important than the incredible work being done by the rest of the team at EPA.
I leave with an incredible sense of pride for the things the Agency accomplished and it was fantastic to be a part of the effort. Administrator Jackson has overseen a renaissance in the Agency and it is again the global leader in environmental protection. President Obama has been incredibly supportive of me and my work and the Agency. He’ll undoubtedly go down as the most environmental president we have ever had.
Thank you all for letting me into your homes and communities, and showing me the challenges you face every day from pollution and lack of infrastructure. Your stories are now part of my fabric and the fabric of the Agency.
UPDATE XII (4/27/2012, 3:50pm ET): EPA Region 6 covers five states — Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico — and now more than half of the U.S. Representatives from those states are calling for Armendariz to “be relieved of his position” as administrator. In a letter signed by 29 of the 42 U.S. Representatives from Region 6, as well as by Iowa Rep. Steve King and Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, the members of Congress also state: “We are deeply disappointed in not only the statements of Mr. Armendariz, but also the abrasive, hostile posture that his office has struck during his tenure.”
UPDATE XI (4/27/2012, 12:12pm ET): EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has now weighed in, calling Armendariz’s comments “inflammatory,” “disappointing,” and “not representative” of the Agency. She also declined to say whether any disciplinary actions would be taken, noting only that she and the EPA “will continue to review” the situation.
This once again begs an important question, though: Armendariz described his comments as “my philosophy of enforcement,” so if those comments are “not representative” of the EPA, then how does the Agency continue to reconcile two diametrically opposed views by allowing Armendariz to remain as Region 6 administrator?
UPDATE X (4/27/2012, 9:39am ET): The case of the missing video just got a little more interesting. Apparently the video was originally uploaded by a gentleman named David McFatridge, who posted the video to a YouTube page called “Citizen Media for We The People.” But McFatridge cited a copyright infringement, so the website yanked the video. It’s little wonder why McFatridge wanted the video pulled down, though: he’s apparently a member of the Sierra Club Activist Network. And when it comes to opposing oil and gas development, the Sierra Club is one of the largest and most active organizations, so it wouldn’t want to have its fingerprints on this at all. Too late? (h/t Lachlan Markay)
UPDATE IX (4/27/2012, 8:33am ET): Some pretty big developments overnight, starting with former Obama White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein calling Armendariz’s comments “absolutely reprehensible” on CNBC (his comments begin around the eight minute mark). Later in the segment Bernstein even brags, “I used to work for President Obama.”
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) has also joined the growing chorus (subs. req’d) calling for Armendariz to resign.
And in another interesting twist, YouTube has taken down the video of Armendariz making his inflammatory comments, citing a copyright issue. More to come on that development, for sure.
UPDATE VIII (4/26/2012; 9:18pm ET): Four more U.S. Representatives are now calling for Armendariz’s resignation: GOP Congressmen Steve Scalise, Rodney Alexander, and Charles Boustany (all from Louisiana), as well as Rep. Pete Olson from Texas. That brings the running total to seven total members of the U.S. Congress calling publicly for Armendariz to step down or even be fired.
UPDATE VII (4/26/2012; 9:04pm ET): Add U.S. Rep. Ted Poe to the list of members of Congress calling for the resignation of Al Armendariz. The Texas Republican took to the House floor to condemn the Region VI administrator this evening by saying, in part: “He needs to be replaced with someone that cares more about the environment than personal crusades against industry.” Both the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily have also called for Armendariz to step down.
UPDATE VI (4/26/2012; 4:42pm ET): “Unacceptable and embarrassing.” That’s the way the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is characterizing Mr. Armendariz’s remarks in a joint statement issued just now by TCEQ chairman Bryan Shaw, Ph.D, and commissioners Carlos Rubinstein and Toby Baker.
Their statement in full: “The EPA’s ‘crucifixion’ philosophy and agenda is unacceptable and embarrassing. The EPA Region 6 director’s outlandish comments significantly cheapen the role of the state and federal regulators who strive to ensure that sound environmental rules and policies are promulgated and enforced. Furthermore, such a philosophy flies in the face of the sound science, the law, and common sense that TCEQ regularly utilizes in pursuing legitimate enforcement actions where violations do in fact exist.
“We believe the way to protect human health and the environment is through vigorous enforcement, utilizing the state’s administrative procedures that are afforded to the public and the regulated community.”
UPDATE V (4/26/2012; 4:14pm ET): Simon Rosenberg, former staffer to President Clinton and Michael Dukakis and now the president of the New Democratic Network, a leading progressive think tank in D.C., told FOX News this afternoon that Al Armendariz needs to go. According to Rosenberg: “First of all, I think this EPA official should be fired, immediately. He’s clearly not fit to be serving the country, talking the way that he is.” Clip is available here – Rosenberg’s comments come in at minute 3.
UPDATE IV (4/26/2012, 3:33pm ET): At least two members of Congress, Reps. John Fleming and Jeff Landry (both from Louisiana), are publicly calling for Armendariz to resign or be fired. This follows in the wake of comments last month from Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter, who cited Armendariz’s use of “fear mongering, gross negligence and severe mishandling” of the Parker County case as a reason for him to be removed from his position as Region VI Administrator. We’ll be monitoring the news to see if any additional members of Congress or other officials make similar requests, so stay tuned.
UPDATE III (4/26/2012, 2:20pm ET): Ed Henry, previously with CNN but now the White House correspondent for FOX News, just asked Jay Carney, the President’s press secretary, if the administration had a response to Armendariz’s inflammatory remarks.
Henry, citing President Obama’s promise to foster and promote a “new tone” among members of his administration, posed the following question to Carney: “If somebody’s saying we should crucify the industry, why is that person still working at the EPA as a political appointee?” Carney responded: “He apologized, and what he said is clearly not representative of either this president’s belief in the way that we should approach these matters, or in the way that he has approached these matters, either from this office here in the White House or at the EPA.”
Carney’s response still begs the question, though: If what Armendariz described as “my philosophy of enforcement” is, in fact, “not representative” of what the president (who appointed him, and whom he represents) believes, then how does the White House reconcile the fact that Armendariz is still representing the administration as its EPA Region VI administrator?
UPDATE II (4/26/2012, 9:51am ET): U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is demanding an investigation into Armendariz’s comments, is not buying the Region VI Administrator’s apology. “His apology was meaningless,” Inhofe said. “You’re going to treat people like the Romans crucified the church? Get real.” The Senator also noted, as EID did below, that Armendariz has never apologized for grabbing headlines by (wrongly) accusing oil and gas companies like Range Resources of harming the environment, only to withdraw those complaints once the EPA realizes its accusations are, in fact, completely unfounded. Such actions certainly appear to reinforce the strategy Armendariz articulated in the video.
UPDATE (4/26/2012, 8:48am ET): Armendariz has issued a statement apologizing for the comments he made in the video. However, Cynthia Giles, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, didn’t exactly deny the philosophy Armendariz articulated, noting in a statement: “Strong, fair and effective enforcement of the environmental laws passed by Congress is critical to protecting public health and ensuring that all companies, regardless of industry, are playing by the same rules” (full statement can be found here). Armendariz still has not apologized for his emails to activists urging them to “Tivo channel 8″ prior to his office issuing what turned out to be a scientifically baseless charge against Range Resources in 2010.
—Original post from April 25, 2012—
EID has followed closely the actions of EPA’s Region 6 office in Dallas, and specifically its decision to issue an endangerment order against Range Resources back in 2010 despite clear scientific evidence in contradiction of its charges (embarrassingly for the agency, EPA had to withdraw that order earlier this year). This includes pointing out how the Administrator for that office, Al Armendariz, gleefully emailed activists in the area (prior to the official announcement) that EPA was “about to make a lot of news” and that it was “time to Tivo channel 8.”
That news, of course, was that EPA “determined” Range Resources had contaminated drinking water in Parker County, Texas. Local anti-shale activist Sharon Wilson cheerfully responded, “Hats off to the new Sheriff and his deputies!”
But as it turns out, the story behind Mr. Armendariz’s actions is much deeper, and indeed much more troubling.
According to a recently released video, Armendariz – who also appeared in Josh Fox’s infamous film Gasland – told an audience during a city council meeting in DISH, TX, that his philosophy of enforcement as an official public servant was, to put it nicely, less than objective.
Here’s a breakdown of what Armendariz said in May 2010, a few months before Region VI issued its endangerment order against Range Resources:
“But as I said, oil and gas is an enforcement priority, it’s one of seven, so we are going to spend a fair amount of time looking at oil and gas production.”
Nothing too inflammatory there, really…other than the fact that an EPA administrator — tasked as a public servant to operate objectively in his capacity as a regulator — was essentially putting a bulls-eye on a particular industry. But the next part of what Armendariz said is where things got really interesting. And shocking:
“I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I said. It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”
Armendariz went on to explain more about how this works with the oil and gas industry specifically, stating “you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them” and that one should “go aggressively after them.” Of course, Armendariz knew that taking such an aggressive course would also sock it to the industry financially, adding: “Compliance can get very high, very, very quickly.”
Strangely enough, Armendariz had initially described this as his own philosophy, but after he finished explaining how to “make examples” out of hardworking oil and gas workers, he said “that’s our general philosophy.”
One U.S. Senator has already sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking (among other things) if Armendariz’s statements about sacking Turkish villages are, in fact, reflective of EPA’s “general philosophy” when it comes to regulation and enforcement.
So, not only was Armendariz working closely with ideological opponents of oil and gas development before issuing a scientifically-baseless endangerment order against a particular oil and gas company, he was also operating under a broader philosophy that sees the industry as villagers who can and indeed ought to be crucified, for the sole purpose of making an example out of them.
But the story, tragically, doesn’t end there.
One of Armendariz’s original claims to fame — or infamy, perhaps — was his paper in 2009, which found that “the oil and gas sector likely has greater emissions than motor vehicles” in the five counties comprising the Dallas-Fort Worth region (“emissions,” in this case, referred to nitrogen oxides [NOx] and volatile organic compounds [VOCs]). That paper, written while Armendariz was a professor at Southern Methodist University, was widely celebrated by activists, who — possibly as a “thank you” to the professor — actively pushed for Armendariz to be appointed Administrator of EPA’s Region VI office. Upon assuming office, groups like the Sierra Club celebrated, calling it “great news” because the industry was “having an ‘oh sh–’ moment” about the appointment. Other shale opponents, including area resident Sharon Wilson, appeared happily in pictures with Armendariz.
To this day, opposition groups still cite the talking point that oil and gas production generates more emissions than all the cars and trucks in the DFW region, a claim that ultimately gets traced back to Armendariz’s paper.
But as it turns out, Armendariz’s original claim to fame — that snazzy talking point about cars and trucks — is just as dubious as the headline-grabbing endangerment order his office issued against Range Resources.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Armendariz’s conclusion that oil and gas operations emit more smog-forming emissions than mobile sources is simply not true. In 2009, TCEQ wrote that Armendariz’s paper provided “an incomplete picture” of emissions in the area, adding that several critical flaws contributed to “misleading conclusions” in the paper. In addition, the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council (BSEEC) took a hard look at the Armendariz paper and dismantled its underlying premises, noting along the way that Armendariz’s conclusions were based on “an inaccurate and flawed interpretation of the facts.”
Furthermore, TCEQ recently responded to an inquiry about regional emissions levels (the full response was obtained by EID and can be found here), which included an updated assessment of sources of emissions in the DFW area. TCEQ pointed out that VOC emissions from oil and gas production are less than half those from mobile sources (63 tons per day [tpd] vs 129 tpd). For NOx, TCEQ states that mobile source emissions “are approximately 15 times higher” than those generated from oil and gas production.
Sure, TCEQ’s latest findings are much more current than what Armendariz published back in 2009. One would expect (and, frankly, hope) that technological developments over time would facilitate more accurate readings.
But it’s also difficult to lend much credence to the argument that Armendariz’s findings were simply due to a methodological or technological difference, especially in light of the fact that his two most significant actions in attempting to “crucify” and “make examples” of the oil and gas industry have been rendered completely and unequivocally bogus by actual scientific inquiry.
The question is, with Al Armendariz’s troubling and offensive “philosophy of enforcement” no longer a secret kept by activists, but rather a part of the public record, does the Region VI office — and indeed the entire EPA — have any credibility as long as he remains in his current position?
Shale Continues to Drive U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance
By now we all know that the development of American energy resources from shale remains a major economic engine for our country, responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs across the nation. But another important (and under-told) benefit of the "shale revolution" is its role in resuscitating America's previously declining manufacturing base...
By now we all know that the development of American energy resources from shale remains a major economic engine for our country, responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs across the nation. But another important (and under-told) benefit of the “shale revolution” is its role in resuscitating America’s previously declining manufacturing base.
Last month, a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers highlighted how affordable, domestic supplies of natural gas will save U.S. manufacturers more than $11 billion per year over the next decade, in addition to creating a million new jobs during that same period. This affordable energy supply is also projected to increase disposable income for each household in the United States by as much as $2,000 per year.
So it should be no surprise, although still worth highlighting, that a new report from the White House shows how domestic manufacturing, after years of stagnation and decline, is finally on the rebound. From that report:
The manufacturing sector has recovered faster than the rest of the economy, supporting growth and job creation. Over the past two years, the economy has added 334,000 manufacturing jobs — the strongest two-year period of manufacturing job growth since the late 1990s. Manufacturing production has surged 5.7% on an annualized basis since its low in June of 2009, the fastest pace of growth of production in a decade.
And what, according to the White House, is driving that recovery?
A boom in natural gas production has supported manufacturing: The surge in domestic natural gas production can lower energy costs, reduce pollution and drive investment in the industries that supply equipment the natural gas sector and those that use natural gas as an input to production, like the chemical industry. Recent data from the Energy Information Administration indicate that by the end of 2011 natural gas extraction increased by over 24% since 2006.
Later in the report, under the heading “America’s Natural Resource Boom,” the White House report describes how expanded natural gas production, particularly from shale, has “led to rapidly growing domestic production and relatively low domestic prices for households and downstream industrial users.”
The Washington Post echoed the good news about America’s energy-led manufacturing rebirth in an editorial that ran yesterday:
The White House briefing paper that accompanied the “insourcing” event attributes much of the rebound in manufacturing to the boom in domestic natural gas production, made possible by new “fracking” technologies. The federal government didn’t do much specifically to promote fracking. Yet the process has dramatically cut the price of gas, a key industrial input, and led to spinoff employment in related industries. The White House notes that more of such development, appropriately regulated, could have “substantial” benefits to the U.S. economy. Even in a polarized Washington, everyone should be able to agree on that.
Candidly, we’re not all that interested in the specific politics of the matter, but it’s worth noting the Post’s observation that the federal government “didn’t do much” to promote developing natural gas from shale — and yet, voila!, here we are. Opponents of shale have for years labored under the delusion that the EPA should be in charge of directly regulating the process of hydraulic fracturing, calling for heavy-handed federal control on the misguided assumption that only such a system will guarantee the broadest possible benefits.
But as this White House report makes clear, shale development and hydraulic fracturing (which has been tightly regulated by the states for decades) is creating jobs and revitalizing one of America’s proudest and most critical industries. And as ANGA points out, the natural gas production at the center of this manufacturing renaissance is being done in a “safe and responsible manner,” thereby removing any need to choose between a strong economy and a clean environment.
With these facts clearly established, the question for critics is: Why should we jeopardize this bright spot in an otherwise troubled economy — facilitated by responsible, state-based rules and regulations — with a one-size-fits-all, Washington-centered regulatory regime?
The White House announced today that President Obama will pivot this week from ongoing efforts in the Middle East to focus his energy, well, on energy. Tomorrow, as the Wall Street Journal reports, “President Barack Obama will outline a plan for America’s energy security on Wednesday [at Georgetown University].”
This too from whitehouse.gov: “The President will visit a UPS shipping facility in Landover, MD where he will view vehicles from AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo, UPS and Verizon’s clean fleets and deliver remarks to the companies’ employees.” No word if Daniel Snyder has received a formal invite yet.
Many of these “clean fleet” vehicles are certainly powered by cleaner-burning, American natural gas. And the president, for his part, and his administration, have been mostly supportive of shale gas production, which is performed overwhelmingly by smaller, independent producers here in America. This from his January 25 State of the Union Address:
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
You see, the United States is uniquely positioned to continue to be a global leader in natural gas producing — we have roughly a 100 year supply available. But misguided regulatory and legislative threats persist in Washington that could dramatically and unnecessarily thwart this production, which is helping to stabilize energy prices for struggling American consumers, driving down our dangerous dependence on unstable region’s of the world to fuel our economy and creating tens of thousands of good-paying, blue-collar jobs at a time when they’re most needed.
Hydraulic fracturing – a 60 year old oil and natural gas stimulation technology – remains at the core of this debate. Without this tightly-regulated and environmentally proven process, that abundant, 100 year supply of domestic, job-creating natural gas, as well as hundreds of millions of barrels of American oil, would remain out of reach.
The fact remains that individual energy-producing states close, ably and aggressively regulate well-casing standards and therefore fracturing and other completions technologies. So closely, ably and aggressively that fracturing has never impacted groundwater – but has been used to enhance American oil and natural gas production more than 1.1 million times.
Some in Washington, nonetheless, are seeking to fundamentally rewrite longstanding federal law with the goal of stripping individual states – and their highly-skilled technical experts – of their ability to ensure that fracturing is done safely. The impact could be devastating, both economically and from an energy security standpoint.
In a speech last week, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association president Don Briggs said this about this about these misguided, ‘Washington-knows-best’ efforts:
Briggs said the natural gas market is “coming on strong,” but there are some attempts to have the process of hydraulic fracturing controlled by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Currently, each state oversees the process.
“If the EPA controls hydraulic fracturing … then all you have to do is have one operator somewhere make a mistake, and they will shut down all exploration,” Briggs said.
“President Obama’s central focus is on stimulating economic recovery and helping America emerge a stronger and more prosperous nation,” reads the White House’s ‘Guiding Principles’, adding this: “President Obama’s first priority in confronting the economic crisis is to put Americans back to work.” Well, Mr. President, look no further than American independent oil and natural gas producers, who are helping to create tens of thousands of jobs. These jobs, however, are tied directly to hydraulic fracturing.
At A Glance: Hydraulic Fracturing-Related Economic Impacts
- More than 48,000 New Pennsylvania Jobs: Natural gas has potential benefits beyond being a cleaner burning fuel. A Pennsylvania State University study said gas exploration created 29,000 jobs and added $240 million to state and local tax coffers in 2008. Revenue was expected to grow the following year, producing an economic output of nearly $4 billion, yielding $400 million in state and local taxes and creating more than 48,000 jobs. The value of additional state and local taxes from gas between 2009 and 2020 would top $12 billion, the study said. (Washington Post, 3/27/11)
- Hydraulic Fracturing Creating Wealth in Blue-Collar, Lousiana Community: Three years after a massive natural gas strike under this blue-collar cattle-and-timber parish turned unsuspecting farmers, clerks and retirees into millionaires and filled public treasuries to overflowing, the storybook fountain of mineral wealth has slackened, but hasn’t quit. A flush of prosperity has come to rural northwest Louisiana, if somewhat unevenly. And not always with the results an outsider might have guessed. Energy companies’ stampede to lease every available acre of woods and pasture to drill for gas is long past. It’s old news how even modest landowners collected six- and seven-figure bonus checks, and later four-and five-figure monthly royalty checks. (Times-Picayune, 3/27/11)
- Sen. Joe Manchin Says Shale Production of “Vital Importance For Jobs, Economy” of W.Va.: Responsible Marcellus Shale production, hydraulic fracturing “of vital importance for the jobs, for the economy of West Virginia. And I would like to see the urgency put towards that.” (West Virginia MetroNews, 3/27/11)
- Responsible Development of S. Texas Oil, Natural Gas “Good News”: An American company is using American workers to build innovative products to develop American oilfields on land owned by Americans to make America less dependant on foreign oil producers. That is the type of good news and big economic news that we need to be hearing about more. Just like the oil reserves, the good news is out there, we just need the editors to be asking the reporters to dig a little deeper past the surface to get down to it. (Culpeper (VA) Star Exponent Op-Ed, 3/29/11)
- “Government shouldn’t stand in the way of natural gas production”: Natural gas is an environmentally friendly, cost-efficient source of energy that provides 4 million jobs in America and has the potential to provide many more. Its ability to create employment opportunities while reducing America’s reliance on foreign energy has been substantially enhanced by improvements in a process called hydraulic fracturing. (Gaston (NC) Gazette LTE, 3/27/11)
- “Marcellus shale boom offers Alle-Kiski Valley job opportunities”: Kurtis Fish is only 20 years old and he’s already making $80,000 per year. Same goes for his 24-year-old brother, Ronald Severin. The brothers, who completed a Marcellus shale training gas well drilling program at Westmoreland County Community College in September, work as chainhands on a Marcellus rig in Northeastern Pennsylvania. … Within the next three years, thousands of new Marcellus shale jobs are expected to join the region’s work force. That means Fish and Severin’s story will likely begin to echo. (Valley News (PA) Dispatch, 3/27/11)
- “Explosion of new wealth”: The result of the sudden development of the Haynesville field has been an explosion of new wealth in the Shreveport area and a promise of long-term tax revenue for state coffers. “The amount of money pumped into the economy from this thing is really pretty extraordinary,” said Loren Scott, emeritus professor of economics at LSU. In a report released this month, Scott said the Haynesville shale led to $6.3 billion in business sales and household earnings, 32,742 jobs, and $80.6 million in local taxes and $68.8 million in state taxes in 2009. A year later, the numbers had skyrocked to $16.3 billion in business sales and household earnings, 57,637 jobs, and $338.8 million in local and $573.5 million in state taxes. In fact, the boom essentially nullified the expected effects of the recession in the Shreveport area in 2008 and 2009, and offset the recession’s effects statewide, Scott found. “In 2009, the state lost 2 percent of its jobs,” he said. “We estimate that if we hadn’t had the shale boom, we would have lost 5 percent.” (Times-Picayune, 3/27/11)
At a conference yesterday, according the Wall Street Journal, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said this about shale gas development in his country: “The fruits of this debate will be what’s priceless: a feeling of security and a hope for the future for millions of people.”
President Obama has an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership on the issue of responsibly developing job-creating American oil and natural gas this week, just as Prime Minister Tusk and a host of other world leaders have in their countries. In fact, this production is “helping America emerge a stronger and more prosperous nation.”