Cornell Expert Says Hydrofacking Already Affecting New York State

(Released June 23, 2011 at 8:03 PM)

Cornell Expert Says Hydrofacking Already Affecting New York State

Reflecting on lessons learned and questions yet to be answered about the hydrofracking and the economy, a Cornell expert today told members of the Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG) that New York State is already being affected by such shale gas drilling, even though wells are not yet permitted here.
Economic Geographer Susan Christopherson, of Cornell’s Department of City and Regional Planning, has been studying the economic effects of hydrofracking, looking at the experience in nearby Pennsylvania and effects in New York.  Since there is “no border fence between New York and Pennsylvania,” she said, drilling produces a regional industrial effect, and cautioned there will be “important impacts to Tompkins County”—from such aspects as heavy truck traffic, water resources, and waste disposal— even if a single well is not drilled here.  She maintained State officials are showing “willful ignorance and disinterest” in failing to  address those issues and, because of that, the state is unprepared.
Based on her own research and review of other studies, Christopherson reported findings including the following:
  • The Elmira area is already feeling pressure on its housing stock and is experiencing some increase in sales tax revenue.
  • In Pennsylvania, jobs are being created, but impact is inflated since measures are based on new hires, not permanent jobs, with only 70% going to in-state residents.  She predicted employment growth here would be “modest,” with several hundred of the best jobs created for functions such as well monitoring when drilling is in process, but a significant decline once it’s completed.
  • Other industries will be affected, with tourism and the dairy industry most affected in PA.
Among questions that remain to be answered, according to Christopherson:
  • How long the drilling phase will last.  Where, when, and how many wells are drilled, she said, will be affected by natural gas prices, currently too low to make much drilling economically viable—the more wells that are drilled, and the faster they’re drilled, the greater the impact.
  • How the federal government’s recent approval of export of natural gas will affect gas prices.
  • Information on who owns land currently in PA and where proceeds from royalty payments are spent.
Christopherson said a New York State severance tax could help support costs related to shale gas drilling, and that such taxes exist in most states where such extraction takes place.  She said the level of such taxes varies widely state-to-state, as does the extent to which that tax is distributed to municipalities.  She assessed the 3% severance tax being proposed by some in New York State, however, as inadequate to meet the need.
Media contact:  TCCOG Co-Chair:  Ithaca Town Supervisor Herb Engman, 607-273-1721.
Marcia E. Lynch
Public Information Officer
Tompkins County
125 E. Court Street
Ithaca, NY  14850

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