- “The irony is that New York consumes more natural gas than any state east of the Mississippi, with more than 30 percent of the state’s electricity derived from it (10 percentage points above the national average) and more natural gas used in the transportation sector than every state but California. There’s a reason that New Yorkers boast the lowest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions of anyone in the country — and it’s not just because of the subway. It’s because of natural gas.”
On a dreary afternoon last summer in Schenectady, the man who would later become commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) rose to the podium at a luncheon event marking the 40th anniversary of the agency to urge a cautious approach in deciding whether to develop the state’s enormous reserves of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. “I see no reason,” Open Space Institute president Joe Martens said, “to rush to judgment on a decision as monumental as hydrofracking.”
His alternative? Continue to keep the DEC regulatory and review process on hold until the EPA completes its latest study on fracking, set for release in 2012. Martens asks: “What’s the downside of waiting for the results?”
He was recently sworn in as the new head of the DEC, a position that will help determine the future of Marcellus development.
On its face, the notion of waiting around a few extra years to tap resources that have been in place for 390 million years isn’t entirely unreasonable.Continuing to delay the issuance of strict new regulations governing responsible Marcellus development, however, may result in far fewer jobs and much less revenue for New York.
In Pennsylvania, Marcellus exploration created more than 88,000 new jobs over the past two years, with researchers from Penn State predicting that number will climb past 110,000 new jobs over the next 12 months. Some of these jobs go to the folks who drill the wells, naturally — but the vast majority are along the supply chain. Certainly there will be thousands of jobs created if New York decides to develop the Marcellus. Less certain is how many of those jobs will follow if Albany continues to delay.
We’re talking about the people who forge steel, manufacture pipe, produce sand, do environmental work, research deeds and operate hotels. Faced with the prospect of indefinite delay in New York, these folks have decided to move ahead in Pennsylvania instead — building facilities and opening offices less than a half-hour’s drive from New York’s border. Those jobs will remain in Pennsylvania, and the longer the delay, the better the chances they’ll be held by Pennsylvanians.
The other key point to consider is infrastructure. According to Pennsylvania production figures, 19 of the top 20 producing natural gas wells in the entire state reside along a three-county stretch bordering New York. As more wells are developed there, available space in the existing pipeline network will gradually shrink.
The irony is that New York consumes more natural gas than any state east of the Mississippi, with more than 30 percent of the state’s electricity derived from it (10 percentage points above the national average) and more natural gas used in the transportation sector than every state but California. There’s a reason that New Yorkers boast the lowest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions of anyone in the country — and it’s not just because of the subway. It’s because of natural gas.
The short-term economic case for harvesting clean energy resources from the Marcellus is no less compelling — especially with 900,000 New Yorkers out of work, and the state dealing with a $9 billion gap in its budget. New taxes, pay freezes for state workers, consolidation of public schools — these are some of the tools that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he’ll use to get the state back on a path toward fiscal sustainability. Why not one more?
Has there ever been a more important time to take advantage of these opportunities? Has there ever been a more obvious one?
Klaber is president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.