Posted June 11, 2013
A great headline this week in the New York Daily News – “Please, frack beneath my farm” – tops a great guest piece by upstate organic farmer Kate Watson, who’d dearly love to see the benefits of natural gas development from hydraulic fracturing lift her family’s fortunes.
Watson’s article takes aim at myths, misinformation and untruths that are being used to prolong New York’s fracking moratorium – keeping jobs, economic growth and renewed hope at arm’s length from state residents:
Being a farmer myself, I want to be clear: There is nothing in natural gas production that conflicts with the work we do. In fact, I am hard-pressed to see how utilizing the fertility of the space beneath our fields conflicts with being good stewards of the land above. I like to be consistent and rational, and no matter which way I look at this, it remains a win-win. Cleaner energy from below, crops from above.
Watson and her husband grow organic hay, small grains, corn, soybeans and sunflowers on their 200 acres in Schoharie County. Her farm also buys 2,000 tons of organic grain a year that is milled into mixes for use by organic farms that produce milk, eggs and meat. The Watsons love their land but also would welcome natural gas drilling. Watson:
This is why I find it so irritating when others invoke our struggles as farmers to advance their own causes. I know some are just well-intentioned environmental advocates. But to insist with a straight face and loud voice that fracking is genuinely destructive to the land and food supply here in New York speaks of either ignorance or intellectual dishonesty.
Her frustration certainly reflects the feeling among so many New Yorkers – denied the benefits of hydraulic fracturing to develop natural gas and oil that are being seen in other states.
Like Pennsylvania …
A study by the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy finds that royalties paid to land and mineral rights owners in the Marcellus Shale play (which also runs under New York’s Southern Tier) climbed from an estimated $10.9 million in 2008 to an estimated $731 million in 2012. The study:
While the exact overall impact may be up for debate, what is not debatable is the benefit for owners of the land and/or mineral rights where wells are located. … The estimated gas revenues for 2012 are in excess of $5.85 billion. Again using 12.5 percent as the royalty percentage gives an estimated $731 million in royalties for 2012. Thus royalty income paid to owners of land/mineral rights in Pennsylvania skyrocketed by more than 6,600 percent thanks to Marcellus Shale.
The study points out that a Bureau of Economic Analysis estimate of personal income for 2012 was just above $556.7 billion, meaning royalty payments from the Marcellus Shale accounted for about 0.13 percent of that income -- compared to 0.002 percent in 2008.
And West Virginia …
API senior economic advisor Rayola Dougher sat down with The State Journal newspaper in Charleston to talk about the economic dynamics of natural gas development, which is ramping up in the state:
"It really impacts any area that's having this development in terms of employment impact directly as well as indirectly because there's such a long supply chain. It's not just oil and gas drillers – it would be construction jobs, professional jobs, the service industry, even food services, administrative, truck transportation, real estate, so the list goes on and on – as it reverberates throughout the community, this new creation and these new jobs."
And North Dakota …
Bruce Gjovig, founder of the Center for Innovation at the University of North Dakota, has been saying since last fall that the state’s oil boom – thanks to fracking in the Bakken shale – is creating up to 2,000 millionaires a year, much of it from royalties.
Bottom line: Natural gas and oil development produces the energy that makes our lives modern and comfortable, while creating jobs, boosting economies and generating additional revenue for governments. There is great promise for our country as a whole and individual Americans, like Kate Watson, in producing more of our energy here at home. Shale energy, developed with hydraulic fracturing, is a big part of this good-news story – provided we choose policies that will foster more safe and responsible production.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.