The city government of Denton, TX has recently voted to impose a temporary moratorium on any new fracking wells until September of this year, and it is looking to make it permanent. They would not be the first community to do so.
Food and Water Watch, a non-profit NGO, tracks the number of communities across the nation that ban fracking operations. Three states (New Jersey, New York and Vermont) and the District of Columbia have all banned fracking. Indeed, over 400 counties and municipalities across 21 states have also passed anti-fracking measures.
Such bans arise from safety concerns, including groundwater contamination. Yet, an Institute of Energy Resource report reveals that even though over 1 million fracking wells having been drilled in the U.S., the EPA has not found any confirmed incidents of groundwater contamination from fracking. Even Lisa Jackson, then head of the EPA, has stated, “In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.”
While the risks from fracking operations are often overblown, the benefits of fracking to the American economy and the environment are not:
- A Penn State University study found that between 2007 to 2010, Pennsylvania state sales tax revenues declined by 3.8%. While state sales taxes increased by 11.4% on average among those counties with high numbers of fracking wells, it decreased by 6.6% on average in those counties without any fracking wells.
- The Institute for Energy Research estimates that in the near-term, over half a million jobs and $32 billion in wages will be added to the nation’s payrolls annually, which is an average income level of nearly $60,000. State and local tax revenues would increase by more than $10 billion annually. Further, the federal government stands to add $24 billion dollars in tax revenues annually, which would help offset our persistent federal deficit spending problem.
- A U.S. Energy Information Administration report reveals that oil and gas industry employment grew by 40% between 2007 and 2012, which far outpaced the 1% rate of employment growth in the U.S. economy during that same period.
- An EPA report estimates that greenhouse gas production from power generation has fallen by 11%, due largely to energy companies switching to burning natural gas for power generation instead of burning coal and oil. Aggregate U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have fallen from a peak of 7.3 billion metric tons emitted in 2007 to 6.5 billion metric tons emitted in 2012. This is a market response to lower natural gas prices caused by increased gas production from fracking.
One can only hope that the remaining communities located over oil shale areas will weigh the benefits and costs more carefully before considering a local fracking ban.