Although it won’t be on the ballot, the New York primary could become a referendum on fracking. With passions running high both for and against the technology used to produce oil and natural gas, the candidates’ positions on fracking could affect the New York primary’s outcome.
Both Democrat candidates oppose fracking. In the seventh debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders stated he opposes the practice, and former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton said she would regulate fracking out of existence. Obviously, she has learned a thing or two by observing President Obama’s tactics against the coal industry.
On the Republican side, all 3 candidates hail from the hydrocarbon-rich states of OH, TX and NY. Gov. John Kasich supports both renewables and fossil fuels; Sen. Ted Cruz, in 2012, lauded oil and natural gas production as a way to create jobs, adding that the United States can have a clean environment, as well as fracking and fossil fuels.
In debates, Donald Trump has claimed that Gov. Kasich “got lucky with fracking” in Ohio. Mr. Trump knows better considering his home state of New York has a fracking ban in place. More than luck, it takes political will, industry expertise and extensive public education efforts, among other things. None-the-less, Trump appears to fully understand the benefits of fracking and has drawn a sharp contrast between New York and Pennsylvania — a state that has embraced fracking and reaped the benefits.
As the businessman explained during a campaign event in New Orleans, “New York has been let down.” If Gov. Andrew Cuomo had not banned fracking, Trump said New York could have lowered its taxes and paid off its debt.
Trump has a legitimate point. States where fracking has been used to produce oil and natural gas have experienced tremendous growth during the so-called “shale gale.” In 2009 alone, Pennsylvania gained at least 44,000 jobs due to shale gas development, generated $389 million in tax revenues, and sharply increased natural gas supplies, according to a Penn State study.
Later economic analyses set the job creation figure far higher and attribute thousands of ancillary jobs to fracking and energy development. In 2014, the Manhattan Institute reported shale oil and gas development was the “single biggest creator of solid, middle-class jobs,” especially in the ten states in the “epicenter” of the shale gale. As the Institute discovered, job gains in fracking states “greatly outpaced the national average.”
Plus, scientific studies have found no link between fracking and drinking water contamination. After researching fracking for five years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015 gave fracking a clean bill of health, citing no evidence of what it called “widespread, systemic” drinking water contamination caused by fracking. The EPA’s findings have been peer reviewed and upheld by the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB).
And the EPA isn’t alone. The same results also were found by the German Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, the California Council on Science and Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and many others.
Fracking also is improving the environment in two ways. It is producing plentiful quantities of clean-burning natural gas which is replacing coal as the fuel-of-choice in electricity-generating power plants. By providing an alternative to coal, less carbon dioxide is being released into the air. And fracking is making natural gas production more efficient and reducing methane emissions. The EPA data show methane emissions from fracked natural gas wells have fallen 79 percent since 2005.
As the publisher of several websites about energy development in shale formations, I can attest the complaints about fracking are overblown. My website members include 40,000 land and mineral rights owners who have have witnessed fracking operations first-hand. In a poll covering the states of PA and OH 90 percent said they would lease their land again if given the opportunity.
Mineral rights owners in New York, of course, have had a de facto suspension of land rights and are unable to experience the benefits of drilling shale, and the state’s economy is lagging. Perhaps New York’s voters should remember that when they go to the polls.