Disagreement Over How Much Gas, Employment Fracking Would Bring to NY

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tonight, New York State regulators will hold the first of four public hearings on the Cuomo administration’s proposal to permit and regulate the natural gas drilling technique called high-volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, or “fracking.” Drilling could begin as soon as early 2012.

While much of the discussion has focused on the environmental hazards, there is also debate over the economic benefits of fracking, and even the amount of gas contained in the Marcellus Shale, a vast underground geologic formation stretching from West Virginia through Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York’s Catskill mountains.


The Economic Lift: Pro and Con

Drilling proponents point to the infusion of money and jobs the industry would bring to poor areas of upstate New York. A study by the conservative Manhattan Institute figures that every well drilled in the Marcellus Shale could create $4 million in economic benefits. The business-friendly Public Policy Institute of New York claims that  upstate drilling could create 15,500 direct jobs (in engineering and construction) and 47,120 indirect jobs (which include those in hotels, restaurants, goods and services) in five gas-rich upstate counties, based on the projection that 500 new wells are drilled each year.

But according to the environmental group Food and Water Watch, those figures are over-optimistic. FWW’s own study assumes that drilling would create only 6,000 jobs when a more realistic “multiplier effect” is used, and notes than many of these jobs would go to temporary, out-of-state specialists.

One place to look for evidence of the kind of job growth New Yorkers could expect is Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor reports that in areas with extensive gas drilling, 160,000 jobs disappeared between 2008 and 2011, a figure partly attributable to recession. But in the same period, the region added 10,900 jobs directly related to gas drilling.

The Pennsylvania numbers are source for a report produced for New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the same agency that will eventually permit and regulate drilling in New York.

The DEC believes between 13,000 and 26,000 jobs could be created, lease-holders could take in hundreds of millions of dollars, and local and state governments would reap big windfalls through property taxes and other measures.

While industry groups generally support these findings, there are critics. Former MTA economist Jeanette Barth says that the DEC study doesn’t include the negative effects gas drilling could have on other industries, such as tourism and agriculture, by raising labor costs and despoiling soil and water. She also echoes the FWW’s worry that the jobs created by oil and gas development tend to be temporary. 

How Much Gas Is There Anyway? It’s Not So Simple

Since the fracking boom began, supporters of Marcellus Shale drilling have touted it as one of the world’s largest gas reserves, leading The Marcellus Shale Coalition to anticipate that  the formation could become America’s largest source of natural gas within the decade.

But a the U.S. Geologic Survey, which regularly re-assesses oil and gas resources, found the Marcellus contains enough untapped natural gas (84 trillion cubic feet) to meet total current U.S. demand only for about four years. (The figure excludes wells currently in production or ready to begin production).

That estimation is far short of the figure offered earlier by the Department of Energy (400 tcf) about sixteen years’ supply. The Department of Energy uses a broader measure of the resource, but the new USGS number could cause DoE to lower its own estimates.

The difference is not merely one of number-crunching. Gas drillers are required by law to report their own estimated reserves to investors, and to make public any factors that could affect profitability, such as the potential for lawsuits. The New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, is now examining reports by several gas drillers to their investors.

Separately, the Securities an Exchange Commission has urged several gas drillers to revise or alter their statements to investors to better describe how they use fracking.


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Comments [12]

Greg from Los Angeles

We aren't limited to just coal, nuclear, and nat gas as Chris says. There are clear and comprehensive studies showing that we have plenty of wind (particularly off the coast of the northeast, and in the great plains), solar and geo-thermal to meet ALL of our energy (much less electric) needs here. It's a matter of collective socio-political will that we demand it over the 'dirty' energies, and finally end our co-dependent relationship with oil and gas, etc. Which are limited anyway and not long term, and we know it. Oh, and guess what, clean energy creates plenty of JOBS, which are currently going elsewhere because our congress is in bed with the oil and gas industry. There's no such thing as a 'wind slick' or a 'sun spill' that threatens human health and the environment, so why don't we all get on board and demand energy from these sources. And no I don't work in the wind or solar industry, I just follow these debates and I'm sick of our country being stuck on these tired, dangerous, and future-less forms of energy.

Mar. 10 2012 12:17 AM

It's sad to think that so many of these anti drilling activists are at home today with their natural gas heat turned way up high. This isa privledge and not to be taken for granted. If these sudo activists are so against natural gas extraction, why dont they disconnect their gas lines to their homes? Truth is, they like gas but just dont take it from our back yards. Take it from someone elses. We dont care where it comes from but not here. Does it matter where it comes from? If it's as bad as some exaggerate it to be, wouldn't our water already be contaminated seeing that We've been drilling for over 140 years now? It's all about anti greed. This is reverse freed for those who cant make anything from drilling and want to ruin it for those who can. A lot of hate is going into this protesting from those without.

Dec. 09 2011 04:09 PM

Uninformed is the right word - natural gas is in shallow water well for last 50 years at least and has nothing to do with fracking.
If one accepts hysteria as argument thereis no place for facts.

Dec. 04 2011 03:58 AM
David Willinger from Manhattan

Mel above overlooks all the disasters in air quality in Wyoming and match-combustible tap water in Pennsylvania, not to mention dying farm and domestic animals. One gentleman's grandchildren in PA won't visit his fracked and cancer-contaminated home, thanks to a pond of waste-water the gas company tipped (oops!) into his pond that killed all life in it. Even the best regulations won't stop accidents. NYS regulators are so understaffed they can't handle their current workload, so they won't be able to regulate fracking once it starts. And on and on. Call me hysterical. If you're not hysterical, you're insane or very uninformed. Wait until the results hit your family Mel.

Dec. 02 2011 02:43 AM
James from cooperstown

Probably very little local employment any time soon - because the Utica and Marcellus are not productive in New York at current and projected gas prices.

Nov. 28 2011 06:26 PM

There are THREE realistic choices for electricity generation on a large scale.

1) Coal
2) Nuclear
3) Natural Gas

Check out the recent accidents in coal and nuclear: the coal ash slurry containing pond that in Wisconsin and the Fukushima disaster.

20% of NYC's electricity comes from Indian Point nuclear plant - built in 1974 and with licenses that expire in 2013 and 2015.

How would you like to replace that electricity in two years?

The anti-fracking movement is classic ELITISM by New York liberals who live in their bubbles, make passionate arguments based on little technical understanding and demand a life of luxury by exploiting resources that are simply beyond their daily views (trash is exported, energy is imported).

The reality is that fracking chemicals are injected 2 miles underground with enormous geologic pressures that have kept the natural gas in place for MILLIONS of years. This movement is completely missing the technological flaws in oil and gas production - virtually all of the accidents - Macondo, those documented in "Gasland" - were caused by cheaply designed wellbore casing. That's the concrete sleeves poured around and insulating the vertical pipe in the first 1500 feet of the well.

The accidents had nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing. The answer here is to put in strict regulations near acquifers, respect private property rights and force oil and gas companies to improve local infrastructure and social welfare programs with each well they drill.

Nov. 28 2011 10:30 AM
Steve Sheridan from Cornell University

Spoken like a true Texan Mel. Don't frack in the northeast, you will be sorry.

Nov. 16 2011 02:09 PM
Jim Polichak from Long Island

Are we so self-important that we're willing to risk the water that hundreds of generations following us will need to survive?

Nov. 16 2011 10:43 AM
InfraJobsHQ from Lisbon, Portugal

Find and advertise all your infrastructure jobs at - dedicated to serving advertisers & seekers: Jobs in Oil & Gas, Rail, Energy & Power, Water, Road, Project and many more

Nov. 16 2011 09:40 AM
Mel Gerard from Midland, TX

I have lived around fracking for 12 years. When you buy property or a house, it comes with mineral rights, or without mineral rights. Many times the original owner retains the rights for generations. Entire suburbs have been built near fracking, with no one owning the mineral rights under their feet. Gas drilling has definitely been made to look much worse than it really is up north. It's a lucky thing to have gas under your feet; the histrionics in NY are becoming laughable on a national level.

Nov. 16 2011 09:30 AM
Mary from Manlius New York

And I havent heard a word about how fracking effects the Real Estate market! Does everyone know that if you own property that has a gas lease or is adjacent to a gas lease, that some banks are now looking at NOT granting a mortgage if an owner wants to sell? In fact , some banks are considering to take a mortgage holder to court for violating the terms of an existing mortgage, if an owner has enterd into a lease!. It goes on and on.

Nov. 16 2011 07:47 AM
Bonnie from Staten Island

Most of the areas that have seen fracking thus far are areas of low population concentration, so that water contamination has been fairly limited in its effects.

In NY State we are talking about drilling through and under an area that contains the water for over 8 million people! Aside from the possible (likely) contamination of local areas by fracking chemicals, no discussion is ever made about who will pick up the health costs when this fracking solution seeps into and poisons the down state area water. I've yet to hear one person address this very real possibility. (It rivals the silence about the fracking water holding areas pools in PA that overflowed into the local rivers during our recent rain storms.) And no one has discussed Plan B: where to find drinking water for 8 million people when this happens.

It is one thing to see birds and turtles caught up in oil, as in the Gulf of Mexico spill of last year, it is a whole other dimension of catastrophe when we see hundreds of thousands of people poisoned by the chemical contents of fracking solution poisoning our drinking water, when our children develop brain and neurological disorders (and "oh gosh, what could be causing this rash of disease?") -- which is exactly what would happen if the pipes used in this process "broke" or "leaked." Will Halliburton replace my destroyed grandchildren? Will the state reimburse my medical costs? I'd rather freeze all winter for the rest of my life than have a grandchild poisoned by the greed for energy!

The whole idea of doing this, simply because we can, smacks of the same kind of hubris and stupidity that denuded the hills of ancient Greece and destroyed her shipping fleets and her economy.

Simply speaking this is madness, fostered and paid for by a rapacious industry and by corporate money that has corrupted our legislators and our democratic process.

Nov. 16 2011 12:26 AM

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