Natural Gas Consumption Up in DRBC Region While Agency Sleeps
A few weeks back John Hanger, former Pennsylvania Secretary of Environmental Protection, used his blog to point out New York State sure is using a whole lot of natural gas. He noted “New York’s appetite for natural gas got a lot bigger in the first half of 2012, when its consumption of natural gas rose 18.6%, compared to the same period in 2011.”
Hanger then went on to draw a rather poignant contrast between that state’s rhetoric and its actions, stating “given all the heat from Ithaca and Manhattan about gas production in Pennsylvania, New Yorkers may be surprised to learn that New York uses considerably more gas than does Pennsylvania. In fact, New York used 10% more, a total of 34 billion cubic feet more than Pennsylvania, during the same period.”
Yet, New York, New Jersey and Delaware continue to sit on already drafted regulations that would allow natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) region. It’s a case of incredible irony, even selfishness, and it goes on without apparent end, as these states continue to frustrate the development of the resources they consume. One asks “Where is the accountability?”
We decided to go to Hanger’s source, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), for more insight. The charts tell the story. Here’s what’s happened in New York over the last 40 years:
Notice, both residential consumption of natural gas and use of natural gas for electricity generation has grown with the latter exhibiting tremendous growth over the last seven years. The availability of inexpensive Marcellus Shale gas right next door is no small part of this. It represents 62% of natural gas consumed in the 11 eastern states that stretch from Maine to Maryland, for instance. A combination of availability, low costs and demand for cleaner burning fuels are the factors contributing to this growth. Governor Cuomo, however, who, by all indications, wants natural gas development in New York and will surely need it if he wants to get rid of that nuclear reactor on the Hudson, as he’s promised, refuses to take action on either the DRBC regulations or hydraulic fracturing in his own state.
Now, let’s look at New Jersey:
The trends are especially obvious in the Garden State, aren’t they? Still, Governor Christie, whose administration has articulated some support of natural gas development in the past, refuses to vote for the DRBC regulations unless he also secures the votes of New York and/or Delaware on the bizarre theory it takes four votes to make a majority. Pennsylvania and the Federal representative are believed to also support development, which would be three votes out of five on the Commission, but Christie refuses to proceed with only three votes. Meanwhile, his state cynically keeps using the gas, while landowners in New York and Pennsylvania, who desperately need development just to survive, suffer needlessly.
Delaware’s position is even more cynical, if that’s possible. Here’s how it’s natural gas use stacks up:
Delaware gets no public water supplies from the Delaware River (contrary to assertions of some natural gas opponents), is well over 100 miles downstream from any prospective natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region and has a chemical corridor between New Castle and Delaware City on the Delaware Bay that frequently requires anyone driving Route I-495 to ensure their windows are up. Nonetheless, what worries Governor Markell is hydraulic fracturing in our region. He apparently loses sleep over this, as his citizens continue to use more and more natural gas produced by that process, saving hundreds of dollars on their electric and heating bills, not to mention reductions in their carbon footprints.
You’d think, from their comments, these folks from Delaware, New Jersey and New York were living in a world where natural gas was nothing more than one option among many, one where they can afford to give it up, but that’s anything but true, as the following charting of 2010 Census data indicates:
Fully 61% of the three state area is dependent upon natural gas, as the chart indicates. This is some 10% more than Pennsylvania, which is supplying much of the gas. Moreover, roughly 25% of the electricity generated is from natural gas combustion, so roughly two-thirds of all households within those DRBC states whose governors refuse to vote on natural gas regulations, effectively use that same gas to heat their homes.
These statistics speak for themselves. The three states refusing to vote on DRBC regulations regarding natural gas development are the largest beneficiaries of it. They represent over 6.5 million households using natural gas. Those households have, assuming only $500 each of savings (some New Jersey utilities have saved $674 since 2009) collectively increased their disposable income by $3.5 billion as a consequence of Marcellus Shale development. One would hope that meant something, but it’s not clear it has, with the continued stalemate at the DRBC, where the majority seems content to play Rip Van Winkle while others do the work.