Appalachian Basin

Natural Gas is Organic, Abundant, Clean, Safe, Reliable and Inexpensive

NOTE: This post first appeared here.

The “Energy Mom” is an engineer, management consultant and investment manager who has spent most of her career working in the energy business.  She lives in New York City, has three kids, lots of pets and a husband.  Here she reports on testimony  she gave before a committee of the New York State Assembly.

Last month I testified in front of a New York Assembly hearing on HIgh Volume Hydraulic Fracturing hosted by: Robert Sweeney, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation; Richard Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health; and Charles Lavine, Chair of the Assembly Administrative Regulation Review Commission.

I was given five minutes and I stayed within my time constraint , unlike many.

After I introduced myself, here is what I said:

… I am convinced that natural gas is the fuel of the future.

New York is a good example.  Our state is the fourth largest consumer in the nation and poised to grow. Increasing consumption will be driven by: stricter air emission regulations that phase out coal and fuel oil, possible shutdown of Indian Point, aggressive renewable standards beginning 2015, new technology for natural gas transportation and low prices.

Yet, despite the resource beneath our feet, New York imports 95% of what it consumes; while the revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) is bogged down in its fifth year of review. This is foolish at best and hypocritical at worst.  Every concern that has been raised has either not born out or already been addressed.

1919assemsealSomehow what is being done in 15 other states is impossible in New York.  Some claim that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is not up to the task. Others point to accidents or historical problems.  Still others point to incidents that happened in Pennsylvania before the state updated regulations.  People are skeptical that industry will be accountable, despite numerous examples to the contrary.

New York can learn from what is happening elsewhere.  Pennsylvania, for example, chose not wait for perfect regulation.  With 50-years of experience and 1 million plus wells already fracked in the United States, they did not put themselves at risk either. They learned as they went and changed when necessary.  If elections are an indication, the people are happy with the tradeoffs that their officials made.   All eight state representatives from Tioga, Bradford and Susquehanna counties — Republicans and Democrats both — favor natural gas.  The tone of local media also shows it mostly favors natural gas.    If there are monsters under the bed, they did not find them.

Pennsylvania is no pushover either.  Last year the legislature passed, and the governor signed, a comprehensive bill tightening and clarifying oil and gas regulation, as well as authorizing a price-indexed impact fee for each unconventional well.  While the precise scope of Act 13 is still being decided by the state’s Supreme Court, the first collection of the impact fee totaled $204 million.  The money is given to all counties and municipalities in the state, divided 60/40 between those that host development and those that don’t.  It goes to repair roads and bridges, provide affordable housing, preserve open space and buy equipment for first responders.

Some say leave the gas in the ground.  Wind and solar are the fuels of the future.  I disagree.  There are no alternatives to natural gas except heavy hydrocarbons with worse environmental impacts and nuclear power.  Wind and solar will not supply the energy we need.  They are expensive, and always will be, because they require large surface installations.  Over 30-years, one natural gas well on a 3-acre pad will deliver the same amount of energy as 200-acres of solar panels or 500-acres of wind turbines.  To put that in perspective, the amount of energy already developed in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus is equivalent to 32-square miles of solar or 80-square miles of wind.  Or to put it another way, covering every square inch of Tompkins and Cortland Counties with wind turbines and solar panels will not generate as much energy as the Marcellus.

Natural gas is abundant, clean, safe, reliable and inexpensive.  It is natural, organic, local and renewable. [Note: The crowd laughed at this statement.]  Holding the future hostage to wait for utopia,  or pay for the past, is like cutting off the nose to spite the face.   It mostly harms our own — especially landowners in the economically depressed Southern Tier.  Approving the revised draft SGEIS, as is, without further delay, will ensure that New Yorkers benefit from this extraordinary resource right now when they need it most.

I don’t think the Assembly members present heard a word I said.


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