Ban Fracking Activists Target Maryland with Yet Another Misinformation Campaign
This week, anti-fracking activists representing various different national groups, such as Food & Water Watch (F&WW), called for a permanent, statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing in the state of Maryland claiming that there’s “mounting evidence of fracking’s negative effects.” Of course, the reality is just the opposite, as a recent video by Energy in Depth shows:
As is often the case, many of the arguments proposed against shale production processes contain little (if any) factual evidence. Let’s take a look at some of the more ridiculous claims made by activists in Maryland this week:
Claim #1: “It is impossible to ignore the mounting evidence showing that fracking poses severe health threats.” – Thomas Meyer, Maryland Organizer at Food & Water Watch
Actually, there has been an abundance of research demonstrating that hydraulic fracturing, and the increased use of natural gas, has been a catalyst for large decreases in key criteria pollutants, leading to cleaner air quality across the country. Energy In Depth compiled these findings, which included studies from EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of California-Berkley. The data from 2005 to 2013 show not only miniscule emissions from shale development, but also “enormous reductions in pollution across the board attributable to the massive increase in natural gas consumption that hydraulic fracturing has made possible.”
Claim #2: “Fracking requires huge volumes of water, which will have to be extracted from our rivers and streams…” – Dale Sams, Citizens for Smart Growth in Allegany County
This is a widely circulated myth that hydraulic fracturing must be water intensive and wasteful because it necessitates water in its production activities. This is actually not the case. Two recent studies by Duke University and the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office determined that hydraulic fracturing uses less than one percent of all water withdrawals as an industry, across the nation. According to the Duke report:
“This estimated water use is 0.87% of the total industrial water used in the United States and only 0.04% of the total fresh water use per year in the United States.”
This relatively low water usage is only decreasing as producers continue to reusing and recycling wastewater. In 2013, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported:
“Across the state, more than 90 percent of the water that flows back to the surface during the hydraulic fracturing process is recycled for reuse at other wells, according the state Department of Environmental Protection.”
Claim #3: “There are already too many instances of how this highly industrial, polluting process of fracking has had dramatic and irreversible negative impacts on local water resources in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia.” – Betsy Nicholas, Waterkeepers Chesapeake Executive Director
Again, this is another popular claim that activists like to throw around with little to back it up. In June, the EPA released its five year study assessing the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas. The study concluded:
“hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources.”
Studies that looked only at Marcellus and Utica development have come to the same conclusion. Take, for instance, a study in Applied Geochemistry where lead researcher, Don Siegel of Syracuse University, concluded (after analyzing 21,000 samples of groundwater) that there was no change in the chemical quality of the water after hydraulic fracturing took place. The study’s summary states:
“Our comparison of these results to historical groundwater data from NE Pennsylvania, which pre-dates most unconventional shale gas development, shows that the recent pre-drilling geochemical data is similar to historical data. We see no broad changes in variability of chemical quality in this large dataset to suggest any unusual salinization caused by possible release of produced waters from oil and gas operations, even after thousands of gas wells have been drilled among tens of thousands of domestic wells within the two areas studied.” (Emphasis added)
Claim #4: “Fracking is a boom and bust industry, and allowing this sort of destructive energy practice could damage truly sustainable economic development, while benefitting only a few.” – Stephen Shaff, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Sustainable Business council
This was one of the more perplexing claims made by activists, given the overwhelming evidence that shale development in the United States has led to unprecedented benefits to Americans.
According to Gas Buddy, the price of gasoline now sits at $2.15 in Maryland, no doubt thanks to the great domestic supply that shale production has contributed to our nation’s energy mix. Earlier this year, a University of Michigan report, released through the Brookings Institution, found that hydraulic fracturing has led to lower electricity costs and consumer savings in the billions of dollars. The average consumer benefitted in an economic saving of $150 a year.
Finally, when looking at Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between Pennsylvania, a state that has embraced hydraulic fracturing development, and Maryland, where there is no shale development, there is an obvious difference in terms of real economic benefits.
Data Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
As you can see from the above graphics, the little contribution from oil and gas extraction the state of Maryland received back in 2005 has virtually disappeared at less than $1 million in 2013. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s contribution has taken off, peaking at $5.7 billion in 2013. We leave it up to the activists to explain how their state’s economy could not have benefitted from the type of GDP contribution that Pennsylvania received from drilling activities.
Claim #5: “Study after study shows that fracking quickens the march toward climate disaster.” – Shilpa Joshi, Maryland Campaign Coordinator for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Hydraulic fracturing, by most accounts, has actually been a leader in the fight against climate change. As EID’s video demonstrates, even President Obama has remarked upon the fact that shale gas drilling “can provide safe, cheap power. But it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.” This is in line with the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions report, which found that since 2005, natural gas has prevented more than one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted from the nation’s power plants. Compared to non-carbon energy sources like wind and solar, which only prevented about 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted; this represents a significant benefit in the fight against climate change.
There is little doubt that hydraulic fracturing would provide enormous environmental and economic profits to the state of Maryland and its residents. A Towson University report found that Maryland counties hosting development would benefit from thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. Maryland deserves these benefits – its residents can be put back to work with meaningful employment opportunities. To hold these advantages hostage to the will of a few does a disservice to the people in the state.