Consumer Energy Alliance – Midwest Executive Director Ryan Scott writes in the Columbus Business First about the facts about fracking and how a Youngstown ban would negatively impact Ohio.
Last year, voters in Youngstown twice soundly defeated a referendum to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Youngstown. Despite the resounding rejection by Youngstown voters to ban shale gas development, an anti-development group – the Community Bill of Rights Committee – claims that it will be back this year to propose a third vote on the issue.
With another potential fracking ban referendum in Youngstown on the horizon, it’s time to take a close look at some of the facts about fracking.
Let’s start with the environment.
Hydraulic fracturing has received much national attention recently, as the technology has enabled a resurgence in America’s oil and natural gas production and brought forth new economic development opportunities for communities like Youngstown. As has been the case in other shale gas producing parts of the country, there are concerns among some that hydraulic fracturing could negatively impact our air quality and groundwater supplies.
These concerns are understandable, which is why the State’s legislature passed aggressive legislation in 2012 that regulates hydraulic fracturing – from the preconstruction to the transmission phase – to ensure the health and safety of all Ohioans, including the individuals and families who call Youngstown home. Among the key highlights of the legislation are the requirement for operators to disclose the chemicals used in the production process and for stringent water quality testing in close proximity to drilling sites. So, in the unlikely instance that there is pollution, it will be detected and reported to the State. Unfortunately, if the Community Bill of Rights initiative is successful, it could unravel this carefully crafted and impactful environmental legislation with uncertain results.
Ohioans should also take note of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy’s recent remarks to the Boston Globe that “there’s nothing inherently dangerous in fracking.” U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz reiterated that sentiment stating, “I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.”
There is also, of course, the economy.
Shale gas development is paving the way for the Buckeye State’s economic renaissance. In Ohio, industry has returned to cities like Youngstown, along with much-needed jobs. In its 2012 annual report, the American Petroleum Institute noted that more than 38,000 Ohio jobs – many of which paid nearly double the average salary – were supported by unconventional oil and natural gas activity. It should be no surprise that the shale gas boom has caused Youngstown’s unemployment rate to decline dramatically in the last 5 years, from 12.7% in January 2009 to just 7.7% in November 2013.
The future is also bright for Ohio, especially in communities like Youngstown, where voters are making a clear choice to move forward with natural resource development as a key to their future prosperity. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy estimates that shale gas development will bring $18 billion in economic growth for the Buckeye State, along with more than 140,000 jobs and $4.6 billion in state and local government revenues.
There is good news for consumers, too. The shale gas boom is helping keep the costs of electric and home heating power at some of its lowest levels in years. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that the average American household is saving upwards of $400 per year, if not more, thanks to the abundance of natural gas supplies caused by domestic production. Even better, American consumers are expected to benefit from the shale gas boom to the tune of an average $1,200 per year per household in projected energy savings by the year 2020.
As the voice of the energy consumer, Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is working with stakeholders to educate the Buckeye State’s residents about the positive environmental and economic outcomes that responsible hydraulic fracturing technology brings to communities like Youngstown. Ohio is uniquely positioned for economic growth for many future generations, and its future should not hang in the balance of misinformed and misguided campaigns aimed at thwarting this opportunity.
Instead, communities, consumers, and legislators should focus on working together to find commonsense approaches that encourage investment, build opportunity and create good paying jobs.