WITH the unveiling this week of the draft state energy plan, Gov. Paterson continues his policy of professing support for producing natural gas from the vast Marcellus Shale -- even as he lets state regulators hold up drilling over spurious environmental fears.
This hurts New Yorks battered economy and deprives the state of much-needed tax revenue.
The Marcellus Shale is a massive natural-gas reservoir extending from southern New York through western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. It is thought to be the largest natural-gas reservoir in America.
The SUNY-Fredonia geologist who broke the news of this huge reserve last year recently estimated it could hold 1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas -- more than 10 times what Texass Barnett Shale contains. The Marcellus might hold 65 years worth of US natural-gas needs.
Paterson last year signed a bill to streamline the permitting process for gas drilling -- but threw a wrench in the mix by insisting on a one-year moratorium while his team studied drillings environmental impact.
The one-year deadline came and went last month, but drilling remains on hold. Now Patersons Department of Environmental Conservation says it wont release any findings until the fall.
Not surprising, Robert Kennedy Jr.s Riverkeeper and other environmental organizations want to prevent drilling: Theyre ideologically opposed to any energy production in the state.
The critics complain that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would be used to extract gas trapped in the shales pores. This involves temporarily injecting water (with sand and very small amounts of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and other additives) into the rock to push gas into pockets for easier recovery.
Yet recent improvements allow horizontal fracking -- once you drill down, you can move laterally underground to recover resources. Translation: a much smaller aboveground footprint and less natural disruption.
In any case, New York has some of the nations strictest environmental regulations, which would apply fully to Marcellus drilling.
Note, too, that the country has more than six decades of experience with the process. As Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) notes, hydraulic fracturing has helped produce 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from more than a million US wells. It is now used in about 35,000 wells nationwide, with minimal impact on local surroundings and no environmental problems.
"In hydraulic fracturings 60-year history, there has not been a single documented case of contamination," Inhofe noted.
The economic impact for New York to permit fracking would be enormous. One recent report suggested energy companies could spend $7 billion to $15 billion to develop gas fields in Broome County alone.
Dozens of companies already have applications to drill at numerous New York sites and just need the states approval. That could touch off an economic boom throughout southern New York, creating thousands of jobs in many of the states most depressed regions.
Consider: While Paterson put the brakes on drilling here last year, Pennsylvania pushed full-steam ahead. Rigs quickly went to work, and the payoff is coming. A recent Penn State study predicts that Marcellus Shale development will pump more than $14 billion into the Keystone States economy in this year and create nearly 100,000 jobs. Next year, natural-gas production could yield $800 million in state and local tax revenues.
Paterson left no stone unturned earlier this year in the search for tax revenue. How ironic that he cant bring himself to search the actual stone of the Marcellus Shale. Theres plenty of tax revenue there.
More important, theres new life for New Yorks ailing economy.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/seven/08142009/postopinion/opedcolumnists/nys_power_needs__drill__baby__drill_184445.htm