Appalachian Basin Speaks Up About ‘Scam’ New ‘Frackalachia’ Report
While Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia have overwhelmingly seen economic growth and development thanks to what’s often called the “game-changing” shale revolution in the Appalachian Basin, the latest attempt from deeply biased, openly anti-oil and gas “researchers” pushes a false narrative signifying otherwise.
Coining the region as “Frackalachia,” the report conducted by the Heinz Endownment-funded Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI) relies on fuzzy, cherry-picked data and ignores important context and factors indicative of economic growth to claim the expansion of gas production in the region has not delivered the anticipated “jobs and prosperity.” In fact, this report was so cherry-picked and such a mischaracterization of the region that a U.S. congressmen weighed in on just how wrong they got it. As Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH) explained:
“This so-called report is nothing more than a scam to undermine the energy sector, which has long withstood slanderous labels and stereotypes that demean the livelihoods of blue-collar workers. In reality, thousands of Ohioans rely on energy jobs to support their families, and in turn, these jobs lay the foundation for the regions’ total economy by supporting small local suppliers, restaurants, and more. Rather than attacking these jobs, we should be asking ourselves where Ohio would be without the oil and gas industry—and the reliable, affordable energy it produces.
“Clearly, despite what this think tank’s report claims, the oil and gas industry creates hundreds of thousands of well-paying, steady jobs for Ohioans.” (emphasis added)
Given this, ORVI’s claims come as a surprise for many local leaders in the region who credit natural gas as for the Rust Belt’s revival:
Norm Blanchard, Guernsey County Port Authority
“The oil and gas activity in Guernsey County represented a catalyst to our local culture, which impacted every aspect of our economy. Our unemployment rate was reduced almost in half and has remained there due in part to residual energy activities.” (emphasis added)
Mick Schumacher, Monroe County Commissioner
“Monroe County has seen firsthand the positive impact natural gas has had on our region. A major employer left town a few years ago and we would have been a ghost town without oil and gas. It saved us. These new jobs in the industry went to our residents and they have spent their hard-earned dollars on their farms and in our communities. We support what they are doing and want it to continue for many years into the future. “ (emphasis added)
Nick Homrighausen, Executive Director of the Harrison County Community Improvement Corp.
“The article in the Dispatch is only telling one side of the story and chooses not to focus on the positives that have taken place in our region and state over the past 10 years. Regionally, our county’s coffers have been improved and allowed for some reinvestment in much needed infrastructure. Specifically, in Harrison County the oil and gas growth allowed our county to be the fastest growing in Ohio and ranked #4 in the nation in gross domestic product (GDP) growth, according to a 2019 Wall Street Journal article. The county recorded a 129.5% GDP growth rate from 2012 to 2015, and a GDP amount of $732.2 million. Manufacturing was found to be the fastest-growing industry.”
Larry Cain, a Belmont County farmer who shared his incredible story with EID previously, said:
“Over the last 7 years on the Cain family dairy farm, we have been able to repair or build new buildings, purchase equipment, and automate the feeding and milking of the dairy herd, all things that help us operate safer and more efficient. We could not have done all of this without the additional income from the development of the natural gas on our property. Our farm has a much brighter future now and for generations to come.” (emphasis added)
In Pennsylvania, similar sentiments could be shared (and are described in abundance each year) about the significant Impact Tax revenue that gets distributed annually across the state.
Misuse of Data
If there were any doubts about the scientific research that went into this report, just ask lead researcher Sean O’Leary, and he’ll confirm that there’s “almost no math going on here.”
That rings true, as the researchers purposefully skewed data by picking and choosing which counties to analyze, inaccurately quantifying jobs, and ignoring many largescale investments that brought jobs and critical revenue to communities, among other important economic indicators.
By solely focusing on the counties where wells are drilled, there are significant gaps in the data accounting for individuals who live outside of those counties yet work in them.
In Pennsylvania, for example, large scale manufacturing projects like Shell’s petrochemical complex, were omitted despite upwards of 7,000 jobs being created, primarily by those in the building trades.
Another lapse in their analysis, an Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) report recently showed highest personal income growth in Pa. was realized by the counties where shale production occurs. Supporting more than 300,000 jobs in Pennsylvania alone, the natural gas industry has brought good paying jobs, cleaner air, and a more diverse economy.
Counties throughout Ohio, too, have seen significant economic growth. The report focuses on Belmont, Carroll, Jefferson, Harrison, Guernsey, Noble, and Monroe counties between 2008-2019 – all of which on average have experienced a 36.7 percent increase in personal income per capita, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.
You’re Obviously Not From Around Here
Don’t let the “independent” think tank’s name fool you into assuming they have an actual presence in or around the Ohio Valley. While a select few of them call the region home, a majority of the group’s staff – including the lead researcher of the latest “study” – live and work in the state of Washington.
And ORVI can hardly call themselves independent, as a quick review of their supporters – who aren’t disclosed in the report or on the group’s website – unveils deep ties to some of the most well known “anti-fracking activists” in the book, including Cornell University’s Anthony Ingraffea. Not only does Ingraffea sit on ORVI’s advisory board, but the “self-admitted advocate” against fracking has also been an Earthworks board member – a group that vehemently opposes fracking and stood by its organizer when she equated it with “rape” – and helped found Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy – an organization that has released several health studies that blame fracking for a multitude of ailments and have been heavily criticized by other environmental groups.
With the institute’s clear agenda and support from biased, out-of-touch donors, it’s no wonder the report paints such an inaccurate picture of how former Rust Belt towns have transformed into mini- “energy corridors” of the east – all thanks to natural gas.