New Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf restored a natural-gas drilling moratorium on state parks and forests fulfilling a campaign promise to environmental activists.
Wolf’s act reverses former Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision to allow drilling, reinstating a ban Gov. Ed Rendell instituted in 2010.
Wolf said in a January 29 statement, “Natural gas development is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy, but so is the economic and environmental viability of our parks and forests. This is about striking the right balance. Our state parks and forests are unique assets that should be preserved, protected, and utilized by our residents for recreational purposes.”
Fracking has had a positive effect on Pennsylvania’s economy. The natural-gas industry contributed $34.7 billion to the state’s economy in 2012, accounting for 5.8 percent of the state’s economic activity, according to a study by the American Petroleum Institute. The API study also reports the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania supports 339,000 jobs, roughly 4.7 percent of the state’s total employment.
Between 2011 and 2013 the state Department of Revenue reported Pennsylvania’s shale development generated more than $2 billion in state taxes and approximately $630 million in shale impact fees.
Worried About Ban Expansion
John Eick, director of the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council, says Pennsylvania would be killing the goose that lays golden eggs if it expands the fracking ban.
“Thanks to the recent technological advancements associated with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the oil and gas industry has flourished in many corners around the country. This energy production has generated economic productivity, created jobs, and brought billions in tax revenue to the states,” said Eick.
“One state that has benefitted immensely from developing its natural gas resources is Pennsylvania, which lies in part on top of the Marcellus Shale play. Any effort to stifle drilling in parts of Pennsylvania would unfortunately hinder domestic energy production, reduce economic output, and eliminate well-paying jobs,” Eick explained.
Debating Best Uses
In his statement, Wolf said parks across the state host 38 million visitors annually, support over 13,000 jobs, and provide $1.2 billion to the state’s economy. “We should be looking for opportunities to grow our recreational and tourism economy through a revitalized parks and forest system that ensures we are preserving our natural resources and protecting our people and the environment,” Wolf stated.
Daniel Simmons, vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, says even the limited ban on drilling in state forests and parks goes too far and is not supported by science.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ well-monitoring program has not found ‘any significant impacts’ from fracking. Why Gov. Wolf does not trust this state agency is unclear, but it smacks of pandering to pseudo-science,” Simmons said.
Isaac Orr, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, says he finds Wolf’s decision disappointing. “Hydraulic fracturing has an overwhelmingly positive track record in the state, and this decision seems to suggest the governor believes protecting the environment and natural resource development are mutually exclusive activities. They are not,” Orr said.
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.
American Petroleum Institute, Oil and Natural Gas Stimulate Pennsylvania Economic and Job Growth.