New York’s four-year review of whether to allow recovery of natural gas using a controversial fracking technique has focused on environmental risks, while a less visible but robust debate on the economic benefits is also taking place.
A study commissioned by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, that found tens of thousands of jobs would be created, has come under fire and the consultant it hired is revisiting its calculations.
Fewer jobs and tax revenues than touted, as some critics maintain, could tip the cost-benefit analysis away from the drilling industry.
Energy companies are pushing Governor Andrew Cuomo, who took office in 2011, to legalize an advanced kind of fracking. The Democrat last year cited the industry’s job-creating potential to revive the upstate economy, but since then his comments have been sparse and focused on conducting a factual analysis.
Cuomo has said a decision on high-volume fracking, which extracts gas and oil from shale by injecting large amounts of water, sand and chemicals to fracture the rock, will be made later this year. Some analysts say he might end the current moratorium but impose environmental restrictions.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about possible air and soil pollution, and point to potential links to earthquakes in Ohio, and contaminated water in Pennsylvania and Wyoming.
Some economists have said unsightly rigs and possibly scarred landscapes could hurt tourism, which in 2010 produced $6.5 billion of state and local taxes and supported 674,000 jobs.
Timothy Considine, an economics professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, says the economic benefits fracking companies offer are clear. “They’re spending money to build those wells, spending money to operate them, companies are earning profits and people are earning wages,” he said.
Last year, Ecology and Environment Inc estimated that fracking would create 17,634 construction jobs in New York, along with 7,161 production positions. With 29,174 indirect jobs, the total of new hires rises to 53,969.