National fracking ban would dig deep into Ohio’s wallet

March 5, 2020

Ohio Business Daily. A proposal from a pair of liberal legislators to ban fracking nationally has received pushback from industry members as well as some politicians.


Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,( D-NY), are promoting the Ban Fracking Act. They are joined by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Or.) and Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) in proposing the bill.


“Fracking is a danger to our water supply. It’s a danger to the air we breathe, it has resulted in more earthquakes, and it’s highly explosive,” Sanders said in a press release. “To top it all off, it’s contributing to climate change. If we are serious about clean air and drinking water, if we are serious about combating climate change, the only safe and sane way to move forward is to ban fracking nationwide.”


Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program spokeswoman Kennedy Copeland said the bill would be disastrous. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has been used since 1947 in the United States. High-pressure fluids are used to extract natural gas and oil from underground rock formations.


“Politicians who call for a ban on hydraulic fracturing are not talking about eliminating a certain technology — they’re calling for a ban on American-made natural gas and oil,” Copeland told Ohio Business Daily. “This would be destructive to Ohio’s economy. It would wipe out hundreds of thousands of local jobs, cause home energy costs to skyrocket, and would reverse the clean air progress we have achieved over the last decade and a half. It would be destructive to Ohioans’ lives — and that isn’t just numbers and data — it’s personal.”


She pointed to an OOGEEP voter survey in December of southeastern Ohioans that said 64 percent oppose a ban on natural gas and oil development and 88 percent say the industry is important to the region.


“Ohioans understand how safe and environmentally responsible shale development is creating local, well-paying jobs and generating new opportunities for manufacturing and economic growth,” said OOGEEP Executive Director Rhonda Reda. “We heard that overwhelmingly both statewide and in the southeast region, where 83 percent of respondents agree the natural gas and oil industry is producing energy in cleaner and more efficient ways.”


In addition, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study revealed that if fracking is banned, Ohio would lose 700,000 jobs and see $245 billion in GDP disappear by 2025.


A study released in February 2020 by the American Petroleum Institute said a ban on fracking would cost Ohio 500,000 jobs and drop household incomes by 4.3 percent, an average of $5,040 annually.


But Copeland said it’s more that a matter of dollars and cents.


Consumer Energy Alliance research released in 2019 found that even as Ohio increases its energy production and remains one of the nation’s largest energy consumers, emissions of key air pollutants and greenhouse gases have declined significantly statewide.


She also noted that federal data shows CO2 emissions from electric power generation has dropped 27 percent since 2005 as U.S. natural gas consumption reached record highs in 2019.


Consumer Energy Alliance Vice President of Communications Emily Haggstrom said calls to prohibit fracking are reckless and don’t do all they can to consider the negative economic impact a ban would inflict on families across our country and particularly in Ohio.


“According to a recent analysis, a ban on fracking and new oil leases would reduce GDP by $7.1 trillion by 2030, cost the economy 7.5 million jobs by 2022, and cause an average household income decline of $5,040,” Haggstrom told Ohio Business Daily. “While a ban would cost millions of jobs nationally, according to these estimates, Ohio would see an estimated 500,000 in job losses.


She said 95 percent of America’s natural gas and oil wells today utilize hydraulic fracturing, and that is the principal reason the U.S is now the world’s leading natural gas and oil producer — and has reduced its emissions so drastically.


“It’s also insulated us against price spikes during geopolitical events like fires in Saudi Arabia and pirates taking tankers hostage in the Straits of Hormuz,” Haggstrom said. “During earlier times, this would have been a significant burden on families and businesses, but recently it barely made a blip. That is true stability. Fracking is game-changing for our economy, environment and energy security, and it comes hardly a decade after high energy costs and rising reliance on foreign imports burdened our families, farmers and local businesses.


She said in Ohio, shale production led to Ohio consumers — families and businesses — saving more than $40 billion on natural gas. Moreover, shale-related investment in the state totaled an estimated $78 billion from 2011-2018, according to a Cleveland State University study. An American Chemical Council report estimates more than $35 billion in capital investment could flow into Appalachia, creating 100,000 jobs generating $30 billion in additional annual revenues through petrochemical facility investments.


“Banning fracking will almost certainly hinder Ohio from being considered for these types of job-creating lucrative projects,” Haggstrom said. “A fracking ban is bad policy that threatens the creation of family-sustaining jobs, will lead to increased energy prices, and threaten the resurgence of manufacturing and innovation in Ohio.“


The Sanders-Ocasio-Cortez bill, if passed by Congress and signed into law, would ban the issuance of all federal permits for fracking infrastructure and prohibit all such work within 2,500 feet of schools and residences in 2021. By 2025, all fracking would be prohibited.


It calls for the federal government to work to provide a transition to new jobs for employees of fracking companies.


Ryan Augsburger, vice president and managing director of The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, said the bill should be scrapped.


“The use of technology and innovation has ushered in a new era of American energy leadership, and Ohio has played a critical role in this development, thanks to its proximity to the Utica and Marcellus shale formations,” Augsburger told Ohio Business Daily. “This has been a positive development for Ohio’s manufacturers and the roughly 700,000 manufacturing employees throughout our state.


“We cannot afford to go backwards in the effort to ensure reliable, affordable energy supplies,” he said.


Not all Democrats are lining up with Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez to ban fracking. Rep. Tim Ryan, (D-Ohio), said in a Feb. 28 C-SPAN interview, that such a ban would be unpopular in Youngstown and eastern Ohio.


“To say we’re going to get rid of natural gas, we’re going to get rid of fracking, that’s a very tough sell,” Ryan said.


Calls and emails to Sen. Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez seeking comment were not returned.


By Tom Lawrence.

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