Appalachian Basin

Here We Go Again…Anti-Fracking Group Peddles Junk Science, Discounts Massive Benefits Natural Gas Has on Appalachia

Benjamin Franklin once said: “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes” – that, and that the “Keep It In the Ground” Ohio River Valley Group will use junk science to peddle misinformation discounting the massive benefits natural gas has on the Appalachian region.

Important reminder: The Ohio River Valley Group (ORVI) is an anti-fracking group masquerading as an academic non-profit that advocates a “shift away from fossil fuel extraction” and boasts a board and staff filled with well-known environmental activists. And, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, ORVI “has received funding from the Heinz Endowments,” a group with a long history of bankrolling “Keep it in the Ground” anti-natural gas activity.

This week’s release is an update of ORVI’s 2021 “Frackalachia” report which even the author admitted had “almost no math going on here.” Similarly, the 2023 update uses cherry-picked data and ignores important context and factors indicative of economic growth to paint its desired narrative that the expansion of natural gas production in the region has not delivered the anticipated “jobs and prosperity.”

As Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH) explained when the 2021 ORVI report was released:

“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)

Here’s the reality:

  1. The oil and natural gas industry is a key provider of jobs and wages for Appalachia and the country.

A new American Petroleum Institute (API) report shows that America’s oil and natural gas industry touches the economy and labor force in every state in the country, supporting 10.8 million full-time and part-time jobs in all 50 states, making up 5.4 percent of the country’s workforce, and contributing nearly $1.8 trillion per year to the U.S. economy.

Breaking this down further for Appalachia, API details:

  • Pennsylvania’s natural gas and oil supports more than 423,000 jobs, provides over $40 billion in wages and contributes more than $75 billion to the commonwealth’s economy.
  • Ohio’s natural gas and oil supports more than 351,000 jobs, provides over $25 billion in wages and contributes more than $55 billion to the state’s economy.
  • West Virginia’s natural gas and oil supports more than 73,000 jobs, provides over $4.7 billion in wages and contributes more than $12.8 billion to the state’s economy.

These numbers parallel similar reports echoing the industry’s impact. For example, researchers at Cleveland State University and JobsOhio shows show that since the beginning of the Shale Revolution in 2011, the oil and natural gas industry has invested more than $100 billion into Ohio’s economy, acting as an essential economic lifeblood to the Buckeye State.

Additionally, ORVI ignores other critical factors supporting growth. For example, data show that in Pennsylvania, the industry has contributed more than $2.5 billion in impact fees since the beginning of the revolution – money that goes directly to counties and municipalities where drilling occurs – setting a new record just this year and representing a 19 percent increase year-over-year.

In Ohio, the state’s top producing Utica Shale counties have collected more than $349 million in real estate property taxes on oil and natural gas activity since 2010, while in West Virginia, property taxes paid by the sector surpassed $184 million in 2023. These revenues go directly into funding important projects like schools, infrastructure, or community improvements.

Furthermore, the report doesn’t even begin to mention how access to natural gas has helped lower electricity prices for consumers – money that goes back into consumers’ pocketbooks – or capture public and private lease and royalty payments, both significant factors when it comes to measuring the industry’s impact on economic prosperity.

The jobs the industry provides are also good-paying, family-sustaining jobs with the average wage 65 percent greater than the U.S. average.

Wildly, the report does admit several times that the Appalachian region’s GDP growth is above national growth – yet somehow still tries to paint this as a bad thing:

“19 of the 22 Frackalachian counties exceeded the nation for the rate of GDP growth between 2008 and 2021. Half of Frackalachian counties had GDP growth rates that were at least three times that of the nation.”

ORVI’s cherry-picked data is hardly reflective of what the Appalachian communities have experienced, leave out the what the poverty and economic rates would be without oil and gas, and discounts other factors that contribute to population growth or decline in rural areas.

  1. ORVI makes the absurd claim that natural gas development has or will soon plateau – despite unprecedented demand.

While presenting ORVI’s report, John Hanger, a former secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, said that demand for natural gas is falling:

“In 2022, the world writ large started to deploy renewable energy and other non-fossil fuels including the electrification of buildings, to wean itself off natural gas. The golden age of gas is over.”

But this couldn’t be further from the truth – especially as U.S. LNG has played a pivotal role in filling the natural gas gap in Europe. In fact, a recent International Energy Agency report details that American LNG played a “crucial role in mitigating the shortfall in Russian piped gas supply” following the unprecedented supply cuts to the European Union in 2022, adding that LNG inflows to the European Union rose by a staggering 70 percent (55 bcm) compared to 2021. This was almost twice the increase in global LNG production.

Similarly, the Energy Information Administration’s 2023 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) projects U.S. energy production to remain high, exports to grow, and natural gas consumption to remain stable, even as renewable energies integrate onto the grid through 2050. Look no further for evidence of this then in California, where just last week, the state had to delay closure of natural gas plants to meet demand as their aggressive decarbonization agenda doesn’t stand the reality test.

Natural gas production, led by Appalachia, is part of the solution for increased energy security – and isn’t going anywhere.

  1. Industry dealing with increased scrutiny – can’t simultaneously discourage oil and gas and then call on it to be the answer for everything.

Finally, the report mentions that in recent years, there has been a “Directional Shift in Energy Policy & Development.” This is true, and something EID has discussed repeatedly as the oil and gas industry throughout the country is facing increased scrutiny, higher regulations, and mixed messages.

President Biden openly promised on the 2020 campaign trail to halt all oil and natural gas leasing and has largely fulfilled that promise, while his administration has canceled domestic pipelinestaxed natural gas, threatened the industry with a misguided windfall profits taxfalsely accused companies of price gouging, and encouraged a rapid transition away from needed fossil fuels. Even more, the national climate litigation campaign bankrolled by the Rockefellers and Leonardo DiCaprio is circling Pennsylvania, hoping to find a friendly plaintiff to file suit against the industry.

These actions make it increasingly hard for the oil and gas industry to have certainty in future investments in an industry that craves stability. As we’ve seen time and again, the oil and natural gas industry is simultaneously being demonized as the problem and then looked to as the solution.

Bottom Line: The oil and natural gas industry has and continues to lift up workers and families in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and across the country. Despite ORVI’s cherry-picked report that condescendingly refers to rural, oil and gas producing counties as a “drag,” families across Appalachia have experienced the very real, game-changing effects the industry has had on their lives.

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