Concerns about the environmental effects of shale gas extraction, or the ability of cash-strapped governments to monitor drilling and protect our natural resources, have been met by claims that drilling will have a positive economic impact on the states and localities in which it occurs. In short, officials have been promised job growth and local prosperity in return for assuming environmental risks.
Models projecting of the number of jobs and the economic "ripple effect" that might be created by natural gas drilling have been widely quoted, but they generate only estimates, and they contain little analysis of the wide range of public costs associated with drilling.
We examined the assumptions behind those models and whether those assumptions are realistic. Then we looked into the costs, among them: direct effects on property values, the local tax base, and on public services such as schools, police, fire and jails; costs associated with increased use of infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, and increased pressure on housing; opportunity costs and effects on competing industries such as tourism and agriculture; and possibly, long term public health costs from air and water pollution.
Our first goal was to give public officials and citizens a realistic picture of the costs and benefits of shale gas extraction. We wanted to change the public discussion about the economic impact of gas drilling so that the full range of costs from shale gas extraction are recognized (and so accountability for paying those costs is assigned) by legislators, policy makers, the media, and the public.
Second, proponents say that drilling is safe if it is "done right", so we wanted to give policy makers a picture of "doing it right": how best practices in the environmental management of natural gas extraction will affect its economic impact.
Finally, we wanted to set out a template for state and local officials to aid them in planning for this or future energy-related investments, to maximize the positive economic benefits and minimize the public costs.
Between the middle of 2010 and the end of 2011, a team of subject area experts, planners, policy analysts, and researchers associated with Cornell University delved into these questions, and produced a series of reports, policy briefs, and resource materials on the various issues, as well as numerous public presentations, webinars, articles, and media interviews. Many of these are available for download from this website.
Further, the implications of our findings for the work of local officials and community organizations has been utilized by our partners in the Cornell Cooperative Extension, who have been working with these and many other stakeholders in New York since well before we began. Their website on the subject is the Natural Gas Resource Center.
Our goal was to deepen the discussion of this contentious issue and the policy alternatives available, especially among state officials.
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The second phase of our work, throughout 2012, focuses on local community strategies in response to the prospect that shale gas extraction or its attendant infrastructure may come to their community.
Thus far, we have identified more than 150 Marcellus Region communities (most in New York, 16 in Pennsylvania, a few more in Ohio and West Virginia) that have implemented a drilling moratorium, banned drilling outright, or adopted regulatory controls on land use, industrial activities, water extraction, truck traffic, or noise levels - and another 27 communities that have passed pro-drilling legislation. Efforts to control high volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas engage local officials in difficult decisions, and no research has been done to examine why communities enact natural gas drilling legislation or regulations, or why they choose one strategy over another.
This project will address the options available to municipalities in controlling shale gas extraction. Why does a community support shale gas development, or opt for a moratorium, or choose a ban on shale gas drilling rather than a zoning ordinance approach? Are there innovative practices or legislative actions that enable communities to control their fate? What is the status of state laws pre-empting localities from enacting regulatory controls on drilling?
The activities we are pursuing include:
- A socio-economic and locational analysis (including mapping) of the communities in the database.
- A phone survey of a demographically representative sample of those communities, delving into their approaches and decision-making.
- A case study of some of the New York and Pennsylvania communities that have enacted moratoria, bans, regulation or resolutions in support of shale gas extraction.
- Documentation and analysis of the types of strategies that communities are using to support or limit shale gas extraction activity, especially those that avoid entanglement with state prohibitions against local regulation.
- Development of policy-relevant materials and presentations for the communities identified.
- Identification of a NGO partner that has the capacity to network the communities in the database and build an online system of information sharing.
Our primary goal is to provide affected localities and the environmental law community with practical, policy-relevant research.
|Christopherson to Study Economic Impact of Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Drilling
Sherrie Negrea, Cornell Chronicle, May 2010