Energy. Environment. Economy.

5 takeaways for PA following New York’s fracking ban

Fracking opponents at a 2012 rally in New York's Legislative Office Building in Albany.

AP Photo/Mike Groll

Fracking opponents at a 2012 rally in New York's Legislative Office Building in Albany.

After more than six years of studying the issue, New York decided to ban fracking this week.

Officials there cited environmental and health risks. The state’s acting health commissioner, Howard Zucker, said there wasn’t enough research to know for sure if fracking poses a health threat, but he wasn’t comfortable recommending it.

“There are many red flags because scientific issues have not yet been comprehensively studied through rigorous scientific research at this time,” Zucker said.

What does this news mean for Pennsylvania?

Here are five takeaways:

1. Both sides of the drilling debate feel like it could be good for Pennsylvania

Industry representatives say New York’s loss is Pennsylvania’s gain. Drillers and support service companies no longer have to worry about the Empire State poaching business.

“I would say to New Yorkers, ‘Come to Pennsylvania and take advantage of these jobs that are available with this well-paying industry,’” says Stephanie Catarino Wissman, head of Pennsylvania’s division of the American Petroleum Institute.

Environmental groups and fracking opponents are happy because they feel like New York’s decision validates what they’ve been saying all along: gas development poses risks.

“This is a great day for the environmental community,” says Joanne Kilgour of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club. “And it’s a great day for the people in the shale fields whose experience has been repeatedly denied by the industry.”

2.  Governor-elect Wolf plans to create a registry of public health complaints

In the wake of New York’s decision, newly-elected governor Tom Wolf says he plans to make the state Department of Health more transparent in how it handles drilling-related complaints. He also plans to follow Colorado’s example and create a public health registry.

Pennsylvania’s health department was accused earlier this year of ignoring drilling-related health complaints. The agency later updated its policies.

3. The Delaware River Basin’s fracking moratorium will likely continue

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is a compact between the federal government and four states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey. The commission oversees the river’s watershed, which covers the eastern part of Pennsylvania. It has had a de facto moratorium on fracking since the drilling boom began.

Governor Tom Corbett opposed the moratorium. But for a long time, his political counterparts seemed unwilling to resolve the stalemate. Delaware supported the ban on drilling. New York was on the fence about fracking for years, and it isn’t anymore. New Jersey and the Obama administration have been silent on the matter. When Wolf takes over next month, Pennsylvania’s position will change. So now a majority of states (Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware) support continuing the moratorium.

4. This probably won’t change how Pennsylvanians feel about the industry

Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs, has done extensive polling on how Pennsylvanians view drilling.

He says the average voter doesn’t pay much attention to the gas industry to begin with.

“Unless they’re reading about the fracking tax or some spill, it’s just not something they’re aware of on a daily basis,” says Madonna. “New York does not do fracking now, so the fact they won’t do it in the future, how will that change the attitudes of Pennsylvanians? I don’t think it plays a big role.”

5. The gas industry is here to stay

Drillers have spent years investing billions of dollars in Pennsylvania. Production figures continue to break records, there’s a major shift toward using gas in electric power generation, and companies are rapidly building new infrastructure like pipelines to reach new markets.

Wolf says he wants tougher regulations but opposes a ban and believes fracking can be done safely.

“I want to have my cake and eat it too,” he says of balancing the economic benefits and potential risks of gas development. “I don’t want to do what New York did.”



  • Stephen Jones

    The most important aspect for Pennsylvanians (recently became one) is a health registry, especially in light of the haphazard way the waste has been disposed of. Clean water aquifers are an essential resource, but natural gas is not. There are other ways to generate electricity.

    • Keith Beckerink

      Heat is every bit as important as water.

      • Glenn Wahl

        There are lots of safer ways to get heat. There’s no alternative to clean water, clean air and good health.

      • GibbyD

        that is why we need to use the 400 years of coal we have , NOT the natural gas from the cancer and death causing Horizontal Fracking and earthquake causing Injection Wells .

        • Donald Roessler

          WOW !!! You aren’t very educated. Burning natural gas is cleaner than coal.

          • GibbyD

            That is not where the pollution matters as much as what happens underground because of horizontal Fracking . Our drinking water sources are more important. We also have the technology to be able to burn coal cleaner. It is in the process of extracting the natural gas that causes the worse environmental impact . Not only are aquifers contaminated but also the radon and methane released does more harm than the burning of coal .

          • JimBarth

            GibbyD, I would add to the equation relating to unburned methane that escapes into the atmosphere via production, compressor, pipelines, distribution lines, and finally, the overwhelmingly leaky pipes in cities across the nation, some of which you refer to as 7.9%. It turns out that Howarth, Santoro and Ingraffea were very conservative in their original projections, regarding the escape of unburned methane into the atmosphere. Whether 7.9% or higher, that number would translate, as the EDF puts it: “Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a powerful, short-lived greenhouse gas. It is more than 100 times more potent at trapping energy than carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal contributor to man-made climate change. When considering its conversion to carbon dioxide over time its impact on an integrated weight basis is 84 times more potent after 20 years and 28 times more potent after 100 years. ” As you are saying, shale gas mining and distribution is far worse than coal. As for Mr. Roessler, he was a volunteer blogger for E.I.D. over in Washington County, PA, where he lives. He leased his land, and is a shale gas zealot whose only recourse is to mock any science that you would present, and any professor, scientist, or economist who expresses negative views on shale gas extraction. As I wrote, his source is E.I.D. He often writes using capital letters and multiple exclamation points, while personally insulting people (as in “You aren’t very educated”) in his response to you.

  • NorthernTier

    “Industry representatives say New York’s loss is Pennsylvania’s gain. Drillers and support service companies no longer have to worry about the Empire State poaching business.”

    Why won’t O/G-associated business continue to locate on the NY side of the border? That’s where (most of) the highways, airports, industrial parks, housing, restaurants, entertainment, etc. is/are.

  • kenneth weir

    The best way to control your opposition is to lead it. Pennsylvania will shoot this toxic industry right into its main vain, will become an addict and the people of this state will suffer the contractions. We , the people,have never been protected from the multi national assault that has been forced upon us. The democrats and republicans, minus a few bells and whistles, are the same animal. When will the masses stop being asses!!

  • AlSever

    Why do they keep referring to a DRBC “Moratorium”? There is no such thing! The DRBC has regulations written to address fracking and refuses to release them. Once the regs are released, Fracking will /can take place. There is a stalemate on releasing the regs as the ACOE refuses to be the tie breaker and vote for releasing the regs.

  • Celia Janosik

    I have recently found out we will have at least four well pads within breathing distance, so it is time to move. I love Pittsburgh and I despise every leasor, I hope they choke on every gas penny they receive. I despise every politician who thinks it can be done safely, it cannot, no guarantees, it is explosive, water and air mingle and endocrine disruption is a lousy and unfair outcome for children. I despise politicians who love fracking, they should all live within half a mile of any drilling activity including compressor stations, 42″ pipelines, cryogenic plants, processing plants.

  • GibbyD


  • GibbyD
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