The purported debate over fracking underlies the tragedy of today’s liberalism. Once liberals posed as friends of the working man. But now their fears about the environment take precedence over jobs for ordinary people.
I happened to vacation in Pennsylvania, where I once lived. Out in the mountainous area there — which is much like western NC — there are nice new homes scattered about; the buzz is that income from fracking in the Marcellus Shale area is bringing wealth to the state.
Gas production means first of all jobs for people who are willing to put on work boots and hard hats and slog away in the rain or summer heat or snow. But today’s liberals scorn that kind of work, preferring to fund bureaucracy. In fighting fracking, liberals are keeping working people from meaningful, productive and good-paying work.
According to one organization, referring to a study by Natural Resources Economics, Inc., “Full development of the Marcellus Shale play in Pennsylvania could support 211,000 jobs.” Do you think the Old North State could use thousands and thousands of new jobs?
And fracking could help government too. For instance, in Greene County, a local newspaper (subscription required) reported that fracking fees had declined this year, but still totaled nearly $3 million in proceeds to the county coffers. Greene County is like a lot of our state’s western counties; do you think some them could use an extra three million bucks a year?
For gas production in Pennsylvania is exceeding even optimistic estimates. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
In the first half of this year, [Pennsylvania] companies broke another record and produced 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to new data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Friday. That’s double what was reported during the same time last year, and more than three times the bounty of 2011’s first six months.
The benefits are flowing to people and governments all over the state. One fellow of our acquaintance lives on a farm on which he has long eked out a living. Now gas royalties have brought him well over six figures.
Certainly there are challenges, but they can be met, if we are smart.
Following up on yesterday’s post on comments by DNER chief John Skvarla, News & Observer concluded its account:
DENR’s responsibilities include regulating shale gas exploration and enforcing penalties for chemical spills and other violations. As part of that task, DENR oversees and advises the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, which is writing 120-some rules to govern all aspects of shale gas exploration, or fracking.
Skvarla assured the mostly conservative, business-friendly audience that this state’s fracking standards would not be onerous for industry.
“We don’t want the most severe” rules, Skvarla said. “We want the rules that are the most appropriate in North Carolina.”
I thought he put it a bit more strongly than that. He vowed to protect the state, but also to keep the risks in perspective.
Skarla took pains to point out how minor a role wastewater plays in extracting natural gas from shale formations. Water used for a few days to create the wells can supply energy for decades.
Or consider this take: Fracking uses far less water than less productive uses, such as watering laws. For instance, in hot, dry Texas, “statewide in 2011, Texans consumed 18 times more water in keeping their grass green than the industry used in frac jobs.”
Also, a new federal study finds that fracking did not bring chemicals into a water supply in Pennsylvania: “The researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water.”
Skvarla said sound regulation can head off problems, and Pennsylvania’s experience is relevant. According to a story in the New York Times:
The disposal of shale gas brine was initially addressed in Pennsylvania by allowing the industry to use municipal water treatment plants that were not equipped to handle the unhealthy components. Since new regulations in 2011, however, Pennsylvania companies now recycle 90 percent of this briny water by using it to frack more shale. In sum, the experience of fracking in Pennsylvania has led to industry practices that mitigate the effect of drilling and fracking on the local environment.
As I understand it, Pennsylvania regulators aimed to craft sensible regulations before the feds could mess things up. Skvarla said his agency was trying to glean the best practices from other states, and hopefully it will do that before things get messed up here.
Now, of course it’s not a sure thing North Carolina has such resources buried in the ground here. But Pennsylvania’s landscape looks like North Carolina’s. We ought to at the very least find out how much wealth is literally right under our feet.