Monthly Archives: November 2013

Study: Industry, Supporters, Grossly Overstated Jobs Created By Marcellus Shale Drilling

Looks like these guys were a little off on their estimate of the impact of shale. (Photo Courtesy http://www.senatorsolobay.com/

Looks like these guys were a little off on their estimate of the impact of shale. (Photo Courtesy http://www.senatorsolobay.com/

It’s been a trump card of sorts for supporters and members of the Marcellus Shale industry: Jobs.

Pennsylvania Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, who has long been cozy with the industry, in June said Marcellus Shale drilling was a “magnet” for economic development. In an interview, he said more than 200,000 jobs had been created thanks to the industry.

In August, Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella told a reporter for KDKA radio that the industry was the saving grace for the keystone state – pretty much saving it from financial ruin:

This enormous boom that we’ve sustained over the years in oil and gas may have been the only thing that truly kept us out of falling into a true great depression as opposed to an extended recession.

But the truth? Shale industry folks and supporters like Solobay have grossly overstated the jobs created by drilling according to a new study by the  Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative revealed.

The organization “brings together independent, nonpartisan research and policy organizations in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia to monitor employment trends, tax policy, economic development, and the community impacts of energy extraction in the Marcellus and Utica Shale” and conducted research and interviews that discovered this:

  • Yes, the shale boom DID help spur some economic growth. But not nearly as much as the industry and its supporters would have you think. The study indicated that between 2005 and 2012, fewer than four new direct shale-related jobs were created for each new well drilled. Industry-funded studies have estimated that as many as 31 jobs were created per well. Indeed, while Pitzarella told KDKA that, “There’s an enormous difference between the growth in the oil and gas industry and the normal private sector,” that isn’t quite accurate, either. The study reported that shale-related employment accounts for only one out of every 794 jobs. “By contrast, education and health sectors account for one out of every six jobs,” according to the Collaborative.
  • That figure from Solobay? He is way off. Here’s a snippet from the study:

Over the last five years, firms with an economic interest in the expansion of drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations — and their allies, supporters, and trade associations — have used a variety of tools and techniques to exaggerate the employment impacts of shale drilling. These strategies have ranged from the use of inappropriate measures, such as data on new hires, to represent job growth to the misleading attribution of all jobs in “ancillary” industries to the shale industry.

A review of statements by representatives of shale drilling firms and their allies makes the motivation for this exaggeration clear — to preclude, or at least to minimize, taxation, regulation, and even careful examination of shale drilling.

An explicit example of this “defense by exaggeration” strategy occurred on July 19, 2012, at a Harrisburg press conference during which the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the launch of its “Shale Works for US” campaign.

At this event, Karen Harbert, the president and CEO of The Institute for 21st Century Energy, the energy policy arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the goal of “Shale Works for US” was to make sure that lawmakers “don’t squander or obstruct this opportunity” and to “ensure no hindrance or regulatory barriers” to natural gas drilling.

As reported in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, the Chamber’s employment claims exceeded those reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, whose Secretary shared the stage with Harbert that day. In its release, the Chamber stated that shale gas production “created over 300,000 new jobs in the last two years,” while the most recent Department of Labor and Industry data at the time indicated that, between the 4th quarter of 2008 and 4th quarter 2011, the industry created a total of 18,007 jobs in “core” Marcellus industries, with an additional 5,611 jobs added in “ancillary” industries.

  • The report also indicates that many of the jobs the industry claimed to have created existed before fracking came to town. “Some counties with a long history of mineral extraction have experienced a shift in employment from coal to shale extraction,” the report states.
  • Those jobs? Not sustainable. According to the study, “Direct shale-related employment across the six-state Marcellus/Utica region fell over the last 12 months for which there are data — the first quarter 2012 to the first quarter 2013.”

Could it be that the industry inflated numbers in an effort to avoid those nasty impact fees and severance taxes? Members of the Collaborative said that’s affirmative, pal.

“Industry supporters have exaggerated the jobs impact in order to minimize or avoid altogether taxation, regulation, and even careful examination of shale drilling,” said Frank Mauro, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute in New York.

Yes, shale drilling has created jobs in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, “and cushioned some drilling-intensive areas in those states from the worst effects of the Great Recession and the weak recovery.” But “the number of shale jobs created is far below industry claims and remains a small share of overall employment.”

Another member of the Collaborative, Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center in Pennsylvania, said in a statement:

Shale drilling has made little difference in job growth in any of the six states we studied. We know this because we now have data on what happened, not what industry supporters hoped would happen.

Wanna read more? Check out the study by clicking here.

Editor’s Note: On Facebook? “Like” us there by clicking here! -amanda

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Energy Interests Prevail in Legislative Process, State Rep. Writes

State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil

State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil

Editor’s Note: This column was reprinted with permission from state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, who has long been a proponent of responsible drilling. In it, he writes about the Endangered Species Coordination Act. White states:

(It) was supposed to “establish a uniform and transparent process for evaluating; designating and protecting threatened and endangered species and their critical habitats in the Commonwealth.” But upon actually reading and analyzing the bill, it became clear that this was more about making it easier to keep endangered species and habitats off of the endangered list to allow development of those habitats, mainly for energy development.

But I will let him tell the story. Here is the column in its entirety. -amanda

Who’s Really The Endangered Species Here?

One of the committees I serve on in the State House of Representatives is the Game and Fisheries Committee, a committee that doesn’t usually end up in the headlines. But last week a piece of legislation we considered made headlines across Pennsylvania, and it’s a good example of how special interests get involved in the legislative process.

House Bill 1576, also known as the “Endangered SpeciesCoordination Act”, was supposed to “establish a uniform and transparent process for evaluating; designating and protecting threatened and endangered species and their critical habitats in the Commonwealth.” But upon actually reading and analyzing the bill, it became clear that this was more about making it easier to keep endangered species and habitats off of the endangered list to allow development of those habitats, mainly for energy development.

The energy industry wasn’t hiding their support for this bill; in fact, they were among the first to stake a position. A letter sent by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association urged passage of the bill, throwing in government buzzwords like “transparency”, “consistency” and “accountability”. Now, why would the energy industry care about the endangered species and high-quality streams unless there was something in it for them? The red flags were almost too obvious.

One of the big sticking points was the requirement that the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, commonly known as IRRC, approve all recommendations. This is problematic because IRRC has no scientists on their staff; the practical impact meaning that bureaucrats will be reviewing the work of scientists with no basis on knowing what they are really looking at. To many, including me, it smacks of politicizing science, which is bad public policy.

Groups representing sportsmen and outdoorsmen had serious concerns about the bill, as did environmental groups and the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. When virtually all the stakeholders have such a problem with a proposed bill, that usually indicates there are real issues to be concerned about, and HB 1576 was no exception.

The Fish and Boat Commission noted that HB 1576 creates anunfunded mandate for the agency, further limiting the PFBC’s ability to adequately survey and conserve the aquatic resources of the Commonwealth. They also noted the bill disallows consideration of species that are rare, but unlisted, in the permitting process, therefore not providing the needed protection to prevent further population declines. So in effect, there’s no way to fix a potential problem until it’s way too late.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission noted this legislation fixes a problem that does not exist, and requiring the listing of a species to go through the IRRC approval process will add months – and potentially years – onto the process and result in added layers of inefficient bureaucracy. Moreover, HB 1576 will have the opposite effect of its intended goal because state endangered species programs serve as a first line of defense in protecting species not yet federally listed.

There was also major concern about how the bill effectively eliminates the exemption under the Right to Know Law that protects threatened and endangered species location information from disclosure. This gives a virtual road map for poachers who will know exactly where to find these threatened and endangered species by simply filing a request under the Right to Know Law.

Despite all of these perfectly legitimate concerns, HB 1576 passes the Game and Fisheries Committee by a vote of 16-8 and now heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration. I was one of the eight “NO” votes.

An interesting note- the meeting in which we voted on the bill was attended by virtually every energy industry lobbyist in the Capitol. As they slapped themselves on the back in congratulations, it was disheartening to see how routine it has become to chip away at the ability of Pennsylvania’s strong heritage of outdoorsmen, sportsmen and nature enthusiasts so long as you have friends in the right places.

To get updates from state Rep. Jesse White, you can access his website here or “like” him on Facebook here.

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Congressional Campaign Donations From Fracking Industry Up More Than 100%

Courtesy CREW.

Courtesy CREW.

Meet U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.

Barton previously served as the chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has authority over bills seeking to regulate fracking. He also sponsored the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
And a report published by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington indicates that he received $509,447 during the 2004 and 2012 election cycles, which was more than $100,000 more than any other candidate in the country.
“The fracking boom is yielding gushers of campaign contributions for congressional candidates from districts containing hydraulically fractured wells,” the report states.
Among the key findings in the report:
  • Contributions from companies operating hydraulically fractured wells and trade associations supporting the fracking industry to House and Senate candidates from districts and states home to fracking activity rose by 231 percent between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles, from about $2.1 million to $6.9 million.
  • The increase is almost twice as much as the increase in contributions from the fracking industry to congressional candidates from nonfracking districts, which rose by 131 percent, from approximately $2.2 million to $5.1 million, during the same period.
  • Contributions from the fracking industry to all congressional candidates increased by 180 percent, from approximately $4.3 million to nearly $12 million, between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles, according to CREW’s analysis. The increase outpaced
    contributions from the entire oil and gas industry to all congressional candidates, which increased by 104 percent, from approximately $17.5 million to $35.6 million, during the same period.

To read the entire report, click here.

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Report: Pittsburgh Region has Cancer Risk Among the Highest in Nation from Hazardous Air Pollutants

People living in a 10-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania have a significantly higher than acceptable risk of developing cancer because of exposure to toxic air pollution released by manufacturing processes, energy production and diesel combustion, according to a new report.

The Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threats Analysis Report—funded by The Heinz Endowments and completed by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities—analyzes publicly available data on hazardous air pollutants.

Air toxics include about 200 pollutants identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as respiratory, neurological and reproductive disorders. The report is the third in a series as part of a project examining major threats to human health and the environment in southwestern Pennsylvania.

While the region as a whole experiences a constant burden of air toxics, the report found that people living in Allegheny County have a cancer risk more than twice—and in some cases 20 times—that of those living in surrounding rural areas,” said senior author James Fabisiak, associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “In fact, the county ranks in the top 2 percent of U.S. counties in terms of cancer risk from hazardous air pollutants.”

The report also found that census tracts with the very highest risk levels are clustered in the southeastern corner of Allegheny County in the heavily industrialized Liberty-Clairton area, as well as in the neighborhoods downwind from Neville Island and Downtown Pittsburgh.

This study reinforces in sobering detail what we already know: The Pittsburgh region still has one of the most serious air pollution problems in the country,” Endowments President Robert Vagt said. “Our aspirations for truly becoming the most livable city cannot be realized if our health and environment are threatened by dangerous levels of air toxics, which is why the work of the Breathe Project coalition to solve this problem is one of our highest priorities.”

The top cancer drivers from hazardous air pollutants in southwestern Pennsylvania include diesel particulate matter, formaldehyde, benzene and coke oven emissions, according to the report, which uses the latest available EPA National Air Toxics Assessment data. Lesser, but still significant risk, is posed by carbon tetrachloride, acetaldehyde, arsenic and chromium.

Using data from previous direct monitoring of pollution in three Allegheny County locations (Downtown, Oakland and South Fayette), the report noted that air toxics released from stationary point sources, such as the coke works in Clairton and on Neville Island, pose a greater cancer risk over a wide geographic area extending miles beyond the factories where they are emitted.

In addition, unprecedented expansion of unconventional natural gas development using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the Shell Chemical ethane cracker facility proposed for Monaca, Beaver County, are examples of new and potential sources of hazardous air pollutants identified in the report.

This report underscores three of the major air quality challenges facing the region—diesel emissions, large point sources and a potential transforming pollutant mixture from unconventional natural gas drilling operations,”said lead author Drew Michanowicz, a Pitt Public Health research assistant. “Our findings serve to better focus our future research efforts, as well as support response actions by community-based advocacy groups and other stakeholders to meet these challenges.”

Editor’s Note: The full report can be viewed by clicking here.

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Pennsylvanians’ Personal Shale Stories Told in “Gas Rush Series” (And There is a Screening TONIGHT)

This photo, provided by Gas Rush Stories, is from the field.

This photo, provided by Gas Rush Stories, is from the field.

One man said the water source his cattle drank from was compromised during the Marcellus Shale drilling process, and showed pictures of a stillborn calf whose death he attributes to that tainted supply. A woman said that after drilling activities commenced near her home, her family began experiencing sore throats, nose bleeds and other ailments.

These are the stories of local folks told in a documentary format in a series called “Gas Rush Stories.”

“Shale gas drilling is the environmental question of our time and place. The purpose of ‘Gas Rush Stories’ is to create constructive dialogue about shale gas drilling and to approach the issue from various perspectives so that we as a society can make informed decisions,” according to information provided on the Facebook page associated with a screening happening TONIGHT.

The series is produced by an independent filmmaker and journalist named Kirsi Jansa, who is currently seeking funding for a 53-minute documentary based on those stories.

Titled “Gas Rush Stories Roundtable,” it has been described as “a story of a state that decided to take the fast lane in a global race to tap the world’s shale gas resources. It is also a story about democracy and the importance of openness and transparency in a society.”

It’s Pennsylvania’s story, folks.

Thanks to a grant from The Heinz Endowments and individual donors Kirsi has been able to produce 14 “Gas Rush Stories” episodes over the past few years — and they are available for FREE online at www.gasrushstories.com.

But for those who would like to attend a 60-minute screening of the shorts, tonight’s the night. Did I mention there will also be a Q&A with Kirsi, as well as a community conversation afterward?

Here’s what you need to know if you want to go:

  • TIME: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Nov. 21
  • WHERE: The Big Idea Bookstore, located at 4812 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh
  • COST: Organizers suggest a donation of $5 to $10, but note that nobody will be turned away because of lack of funds.

Can’t make tonight’s screening? Other opportunities to learn about Gas Rush Stories can be found here.

Editor’s Note: I won’t be able to make it to the screening tonight. If anyone is going, and would like to write a column or review, please just email me at marcellusmonitor_editor@yahoo.com. Thanks! -amanda

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UPDATED: Shale Lecture at Washington & Jefferson Explores “Social License” to Drill

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 5:22 p.m. to include information provided by W&J College about the event. -amanda

I wanted to pass along some information on a lecture happening TONIGHT at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, PA regarding Marcellus Shale drilling.

The lecture, titled “Obtaining a Social License to Operate in the Unconventional Shale Domain,” will take place at 7 p.m. in the Yost Auditorium.

Here’s how the W&J website describes the event:

The new Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), formed by a coalition of natural gas producing companies, philanthropies, and environmental groups, is a center of excellence for shale gas development. Its goal is to support continuous improvement in industrial practices through performance standards and voluntary certification. Join Andrew G. Place, Corporate Director, Energy and Environmental Policy, EQT Corporation, and Acting Interim Director of the CSSD, and Davitt Woodwell, Senior Vice President, Western Region, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, as they discuss the goals and plans of the CSSD and the challenges it faces.

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development is a nonprofit organization based n Pittsburgh. Here is a little bit of info about its mission from its website, which can be accessed here:

Focused on shale development in the Appalachian Basin, the Center provides a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to share expertise with the common objective of developing solutions and serving as a center of excellence for shale gas development.

Funded by philanthropic foundations and participating energy companies, CSSD is intended to promote collaborative efforts by industry and its stakeholders called for by the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board.

A news release from the nonprofit indicates that it was formed this past March. Here’s what Robert Vagt, president of The Heinz Endowments, had to say in the release:

“CSSD is the result of an unprecedented effort that brought together a group of stakeholders with diverse perspectives, working to create responsible performance standards and a rigorous, third-party evaluation process for shale gas operations.This process has demonstrated for us that industry and environmental organizations, working together, can identify shared values and find common ground on standards that are environmentally protective.”

While companies such as Chevron, EQT, Shell are strategic partners in this newly formed nonprofit, it appears from the website that Range Resources and MarkWest, which conduct much drilling activity in Washington County, are not among those participating.

Need more info on the nonprofit? A fact sheet can be found here.

Thinking of attending? Here’s what you need to know about getting there.

The lecture, part of an ongoing energy program at the college, is free and open to the public.

Here’s what a W&J release indicated about tonight’s event:

This evening’s lecture looks at the important issue of how natural gas producers in the Appalachian Basin achieve a social license to operate. In other words, how do they develop trust –based relationships with all of their stakeholders and with the communities within which they operate so that the communities accept or approve the producers’ ongoing presence? Recently, a coalition of natural gas producers, environmental groups and philanthropies formed the CSSD as a center of excellence for shale gas development with the ultimate goal of achieving a social license for operators in the Appalachian Basin.  The CSSD’s mission is to support continuous improvement and innovative practices through collaboratively developed performance standards and a third party certification to those standards. Representatives of the CSSD will discuss the goals of the CSSD and the challenges it faces in achieving those goals,” said Diana Stares, director for the CEPM.

Registration is suggested. Please register at http://www.washjeff.edu/center-energy-policy-management

Upcoming lectures of the Energy Lecture Series:

·         Feb. 27, 2014, 6:30 p.m.: “Thirst for Power: The Nexus of Energy & Water”

·         March 26, 2014, 6:30 p.m.: “A Vision for Coal” 

-amanda

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From the Editor: Welcome to Marcellus Monitor

welcome

I can’t stand a bully. Never could.

And in 10 years working as a journalist in the Pittsburgh region, bullying may have been a topic of feature stories, but never really a part of my everyday working life.

Until I started writing about the Marcellus Shale.

I should clarify that: I was on great working terms with many in the shale industry when I was writing feature stories singing its praises. There were check presentations. There were outreach meetings when drilling activities commenced. There was even a story about Southpointe-based Range Resources employees buying a pig for $36,000 to help a local 4H student at the Washington County County Fair.

When I was laid off from my reporting position at the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Range’s controversial spokesman, Matt Pitzarella even endorsed me on LinkedIn, calling me a fair reporter.

But that all changed shortly after I became the editor of the Canon-McMillan Patch website, which published news from Canonsburg, Cecil and North Strabane (and for the record, Pitzarella deleted his endorsement sometime during my tenure there).

Pitzarella and fellow Range spin doctors Jim Cannon and Mike Mackin were initially very supportive of my reporting efforts (Cecil Township was one of the areas where drilling activity was brisk, and I covered those issues religiously). I even met with them at the corporate headquarters, where they tried to plant a story about Cecil’s solicitor.

Cannon and Mackin suggested I write a story about how that solicitor, John Smith, was running up legal bills related to Cecil Township and his review of shale-related issues. They even gave me the legal bills they had garnered from the township through a state Right to Know request.

I looked at the bills, and I passed on the story.

Because to me, it wasn’t “a story.” It was an attempt to get a reporter to write a propaganda piece.

Shortly after that meeting, Cecil became the epicenter of local shale issues.

And as I chased after stories that increasingly made Range Resources, MarkWest and other players in the shale industry look like something less than community benefactors, I noticed that my phone calls were increasingly ignored.

By the end of my tenure at Patch (I was furloughed in August), I had not received a phone call from Range Resources, specifically, for months.

More disturbing were reports I was hearing from other reporter friends also covering the industry. One reporter even confirmed that a story that was not complimentary to the shale industry was spiked at the behest of top industry brass.

Then there was all the propaganda.

After breaking a story about issues Cecil Towship officials and residents were having with a frac pond known as the Worstell impoundment, an industry-funded website that sells itself as a “news” site about shale issues, took aim at me and sources that helped me understand the issues I wrote about.

Around that same time (in the midst of Cecil and other communities challenging the state’s newly passed legislation governing Marcellus Shale activity called Act 13), I noticed that propaganda “informational” packets were being left at local meetings.

There was also a deluge of commenters on my former site who bullied readers who asked questions or who were critical of the shale industry.

Then there was the upheaval in Cecil as its supervisors fought over secret meetings with Range Resources, and a closed-door meeting with the Department of Environmental Protection – all related to the impoundment.

Since my departure from Patch in August, I have stayed close with my sources, and have learned of so many issues that, unfortunately, are not given much (if any) ink in the local press.

That’s why I created Marcellus Monitor: Because I think you deserve more reporting than you are getting.

And I assure you: I will not be bullied.

Here, you will find original reporting, informational features and aggregated content from around the web.

And I invite you and your friends to contribute, too. If you’d like to contribute a column, a letter to the editor, or a story, please email me at marcellusmonitor_editor@yahoo.com. Also, please join us on Facebook here.

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