08.23.2011 0

“Wealthy Liberals” Seek to Shut Down Job Producing Drilling Innovations in Pennsylvania

By Kevin Mooney — “Wealthy liberals” are spreading false and misleading information about new drilling techniques that have opened up natural gas resources in Pennsylvania, according to a report from the Commonwealth Foundation.

A geologic formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which cuts across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Viriginia, was beyond reach at one time. But this has changed as a result of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Almost 489 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is sufficient to cover all of America’s natural gas needs over a 20 year period is recoverable, the foundation reports.

Unfortunately, anti-drilling activists have stepped in to obstruct further development of the natural gas industry, which is responsible for creating tens of thousands of new jobs, according to the report. Herb and Marion Sandler, who founded the S&L known as World Savings Bank, are identified as the primary culprits here. In 2007, they launched an investigative reporting outfit called ProPublica, which proceeded to inveigh against the natural gas industry.

“Much attention has been paid to the efforts of gas companies to influence the political debate through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts,” the report says. “But anti-drilling activists — while claiming gas companies use their vast financial resources to weaken regulatory structures and silence poorly funded environmental groups — influence politicians through their own lobbying efforts and by spreading myths about drilling. Among the myths alleged about “Big Gas” is that drillers are flocking to Pennsylvania’s rich Marcellus Shale reserves, engaging in dangerous and highly polluting drilling activities, and shirking responsibility for damages while successfully avoiding paying taxes.”

After scrutinizing several of the natural gas articles produced by ProPublica, the Independent Institute uncovered several areas that cast the industry in very bad light. Here is a portion of Institute’s commentary on the reporting from ProPublica: “The Colorado experience of zero cases of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing is consistent with the 2002 study from the Interstate Oil and Gas Com3 policy brief pact Commission (a consortium of state regulatory agencies). The Commission surveyed regulatory agencies in 28 states (including Colorado and the other four states where ProPublica claimed that there were more than 1,000 “documented” cases of contamination). The response covered the entire history of hydraulic fracturing in those states. Every single one of those 28 states reported that there had never been groundwater harm due to fracturing.”

The ProPublica report declined to report on any evidence from this study.

The slanted reporting and misinformation could come with a serious price tag for Pennsylvania, if state officials are persuaded to impose restraints on natural gas development. Penn State economists have concluded that the Marcellus development has already resulted in over 88,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania. Moreover, the investments in natural gas drilling have translated over to improved infrastructure for the state.

In 2010, natural gas companies poured about $200 million into rebuilding and improving local roads, the Commonwealth Foundation reported.

The enhanced drilling techniques have opened the way to economic development that would not have been possible just a few years ago. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have helped to take the edge off the recession in Pennsylvania. But job creation could be offset if green pressure groups and “wealthy liberals” are permitted to circulate anti-industry propaganda without a forceful response.

Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinMooneyDC.

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