Press and Sun Bulletin 03/26/2013
Drilling risk can, must be managed
By Brad Gill
It's become very clear that New Yorkers have, in large part, tuned out the debate over the future of natural gas development. Proponents are entrenched in their supportive positions. Likewise, opponents see no way drilling can ever be done safely — despite the superb performance record in other states and the decades-long history of safe oil and gas exploration in New York.
This dynamic is playing out as energy experts, regulators, economists, political leaders and others are clearly demonstrating that natural gas exploration is creating jobs, leading to a manufacturing resurgence, helping the environment and, most importantly, not polluting groundwater.
Natural gas is being harvested safely across the world and in more than half of U.S. states. Its use is helping to lower carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Its extraction will lead to 600,000 new jobs by 2020, according to the Obama administration. Its availability can "spark a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S., including billions in cost savings, a significant number of new jobs and a greater investment in U.S. plants," according to a 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers study.
Additionally, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg actively supports natural gas usage in power production and transportation. In August 2012 study, he said that "natural gas is a lowcost, low-emissions fuel that makes good economic and environmental sense." The federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Groundwater Protection Council and governors in gas-producing states support its safe extraction and have testified to its safety.
For nearly five years, the public in New York has been exposed to a well-organized and well-funded campaign designed to distort the truth about natural gas development, to create an illusion of some dire emergency and public health threat, and to plant seeds of doubt that have little chance of germinating.
Their arguments often hinge on a particular image that has helped sustain the controversy — the flaming faucet clip from the widely panned film "Gasland." The scene continues to show up in news reports as a problem caused by drilling. It is not.
There is no perfectly safe energy source. Coal, wind, oil, solar, hydro and natural gas have benefits and drawbacks.
Risk can and must be managed. Demanding zero risk from energy production, however, is unattainable, unrealistic and not requested of any other modern industry. We must listen to the real experts in the dialogue — not actors, activist academics and New York City-based special interests — to determine if expanded natural gas development can be done safely in the Southern Tier. History, experience and science will conclude just that.Gill is executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York.
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