Banning Pennsylvania Shale Gas Production Would be a Costly Mistake

A new trend has taken hold in the development of our nation’s natural gas resources.  From Josh Fox’s controversial films, Gasland and now Gasland Part II, to the “Stop the Frack Attack” demonstration in Washington, anti-development movements have fueled a negative perception of shale gas and hydraulic fracturing.  Now activists around the nation are urging communities to ban the process.

Unfortunately, these scare tactics and bans only serve to misinform the public and challenge the social licenses of those looking to explore new opportunities and the potential benefits they hold for our nation.

In Pennsylvania, where many communities have rejected these proposals, the state’s Democratic Party recently approved a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the Party’s platform. As a result,  Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) recently polled every state legislator asking whether they support or oppose the policy plank.

Indeed, the proposal was offered by a state committee member from an area with no natural gas development and was swiftly rebuked by prominent Democrats. In fact, House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) and 17 other Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to party chairman Jim Burn calling the proposal “shortsighted” because it disregards “the many positive impacts” of shale development and would “create significant adverse impacts…with no discernible gain.” State Senate democrats have circulated a letter of their own.

Former Governor Ed Rendell (D-Pa.), who oversaw the growth of the state’s shale industry, called the proposal “ill-advised” as shale development has “helped create wealth in the poorest areas of Pennsylvania.”

The wealth creation Rendell described isn’t limited to Pennsylvania; it’s happening across the nation.  In fact, counties hosting Eagle Ford Shale development saw an average increase of 13.62 percent in per capita income between 2008 and 2011. In Ohio, wages earned by workers in the natural gas industry exceed the state average by $30,000 and North Dakota has the highest upward mobility of any state thanks to shale development.  At the same time, a USA TODAY analysis declared that activity in the nation’s oil and gas field increased incomes by 3.8 percent in rural areas across the United States.

As these examples illustrate, banning hydraulic fracturing comes with a great opportunity cost. However, as a consumer-driven organization, CEA understands that unsafe energy production can cost consumers and communities – so we support sound oversight of safe natural gas production. While communities should have a voice in how responsible energy production proceeds, the policies they enact should consider economics and all the facts at hand, not just those provided by activists.