New Study Underscores Enormous Potential Economic Benefits From NY’s Marcellus Shale

Earlier this week, New York’s state House doubled down on its bad bet of a year ago and sought to extend by another year the state’s moratorium on the use of fracturing technology — at least the kind requiring enough water to access the Marcellus. Such a proposal seeks to only further put out of reach the potentially widespread economic benefits – tens of thousands of jobs, millions in revenue – associated with shale gas production for New York State.

A recent New York Post editorial captures the contours of this debate:

“The longer fracking is verboten in New York, the longer the upstate region loses out on a promising economic boost. Indeed, new drilling operations alone could create thousands of jobs for the economically ailing area.”

Further, and perhaps even more clearly, these facts and economic potentials are echoed in a Manhattan Institute report issued this week. The report analyzed the economic and environmental impacts of shale gas development in New York State as based upon Pennsylvania’s Marcellus activity. The study indicated that a moratorium on drilling provides little environmental benefit while imposing large scale economic cost.

Data was generated on a per-well basis to create an “economic-environmental benefit-cost ratio for a typical Marcellus shale gas well.” The study further notes the importance of understanding the downstream positive externalities of natural gas potentials as an alternative to coal and oil energy generation.

Here are several key findings:

  • An end to the moratorium would spur over $11.4 billion in economic output.
  • The typical Marcellus shale gas well generates about $4 million in economic benefits.
  • Some 15,000 to 18,000 jobs could be created in the Southern Tier and Western New York, regions which lost a combined 48,000 payroll jobs between 2000 and 2010.*
  • Another 75,000 to 90,000 jobs could be created if the area of exploration and drilling were expanded to include the Utica shale and southeastern New York, including the New York City watershed. (This assumes a regulatory regime that protects the water supply but permits drilling to continue.)
  • Localities and the state stand to reap $1.4 billion in tax revenues if the moratorium is allowed to expire.

The authors also determine that “Clearly, the economic benefits of shale gas drilling far outweigh the environmental costs.” And it’s true, hydraulic fracturing has never impacted groundwater. And despite claims, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson – our nation’s top environmental watchdog – told Congress this recently when asked about fracturing:

“I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

Misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the science and facts surrounding shale gas production has diluted the potential of hydraulic fracturing for New York’s energy and economic future. And New Yorkers need only to look Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where natural gas development is being done in an environmentally responsible way.

Yesterday, under the headline “Gas drilling makes millionaires in Marshall County”, West Virginia Public Broadcasting notes the positive economic benefit drilling has brought into the homes of its residents, as well as its small businesses and community:

Some residents in Marshall County are becoming rich off Marcellus shale drilling. The gas drilling boom is creating an economic upswing throughout the community. Despite the recession, Marshall County is doing better than most counties in the state. It is now the #2 coal producing county in West Virginia. It’s also become a big draw for gas companies looking to tap the natural gas in Marcellus Shale deep underground.

Marshall County Commissioner Donald Mason said this means big money for some residents. “We have seen several people in our county become instant millionaires with the signing of the leases and some of them are already producing. There are rumors that some people are getting as much as $60,000 a month from their gas wells,” Mason said.

And the money from those lease checks is trickling into the community.

Back at Auto Choice in Moundsville, John Hunnel said he’s seen the Northern Panhandle area suffer from a loss in manufacturing jobs like glass and steel over the years. He said the Marcellus shale drilling activity has him feeling pretty optimistic about the future. “Anytime you have different jobs coming in to the area it does help. It brings other businesses along with it which is good, but I think this whole area is going to change dramatically within the next probably 5 to 10 years for sure,” said Hunnel.

Modern shale gas development is a labor-intensive task, for sure, requiring continual man power and thereby generating continued and much-needed employment opportunities. According the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, there are 141,000 Marcellus related jobs in the Commonwealth, with an average Marcellus wage of $69,996.

New York’s ongoing de facto moratorium – as well as the one passed by the General Assembly – will only continue to stifle the desperately needed economic potential of shale gas production for the state. The economic benefits are too great to be ignored.

As the Manhattan Institute study lays out, “Our analysis of Marcellus development in Pennsylvania suggests that environmentally safe development is possible in New York. Our study finds the net economic and environmental benefits from shale gas development to be considerable, suggesting that the current moratorium is far costlier than its proponents, or even its opponents, realize.”

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