Monday, July 18, 2011

The Numbers Don't Add Up

I recently asked my elected official to vote yes on an item that would close the loophole for fracking wastewater.  The response is pasted below.


The Department of Environmental Conservation has completed an extensive study on hydrofracking and recently released the Department’s final recommendations.  The regulations are among the most stringent in the country, and all permits will be closely evaluated and monitored by DEC.

The DEC rules will give drillers access to about 85% of the Marcellus Shale allowing companies to resume low-volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas wells.  The recommendations specifically prohibit high volume hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale field in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds including a buffer zone.

Low volume hydrofracking has been safely employed in New York since the 1940’s.  The DEC has provided successful oversight of these natural gas wells for more than 60 years, and I have confidence in the Department’s ability to continue appropriate review of this industry.

According to NYSERDA, there are 4,500-5,000 people employed in the well drilling industry.  Prior to the recent moratorium, there were 670 wells drilled in 2008 and 580 drilled in 2009 in the Medina shale alone.  These wells average 3,200 feet deep and require less that 75,000 gallons of water for hydrofracking.  By comparison if wells were to be hydrofracked in the Marcellus-Utica shale, the wells average 10,000 feet, require millions of gallons of water and involve horizontal drilling.

Allowing low-volume hydrofracking to resume will not only save our state about 5,000 jobs but will also result in annual investments in oil and gas wells of approximately $25 million.  In addition New York will collect over $1 million in local community real property taxes, about $5 million in royalty payments and over $1 million in fee revenue.  In fact some upstate business groups project the drilling will create 15,000 jobs and generate $1.7 billion in economic activity.

All of us recognize the state’s responsibility to preserve our water sheds and environment.  The responsibility must be reasonably implemented as the state also has a responsibility to preserve and create new jobs and economic development.  I believe DEC has found the appropriate balance at this time as the Department continues to study the viability of high-volume hydrofracking.  The Governor has appointed a 13 member Advisory Panel of experts including people from environmental groups to assist DEC in its final evaluations taking place over the next several months.

I realize this is an unusually long response, but I believe the importance of this issue must be fully explained.  For more information, you may want to read the entire report at

Thank you for sharing your views with me, and please feel free to contact me at any time.

Now, I didn't ask for opposition to fracking (at least not in that letter).  I asked that a yes vote be recorded to close the loopholes in the disposal of wastewater (A.7013/S.4616).

I'm not new to reports and data, so I looked real quick at the numbers.  According to this response, we currently have an upward total of 5,000 jobs in the well drilling industry.  Assuming that all the wells in New York are those that were drilled in 2008 (670 wells) and 2009 (580 wells), there would be a total of 1,250 wells.  That's 4 jobs for each well.  But those wells were in the Medina shale alone, so if there are more that 1,250 wells, it's less that 4 jobs per well.

It's further stated that allowing fracking will create 15,000 jobs.  At 4 jobs per well, that would equate to 3,750 new wells.  Really?

As I said, I see reports daily.  I always ask does the report make sense?  If the numbers benefit the person that gave them to me, show me the raw data.  I took a quick look at the 2009 DEC report (the latest available) and found the following on wells in New York:

All reported wells  14,512
Active wells 
  • Natural Gas - 6,628
  • Oil - 3,401
  • Gas Storage - 953
  • Solution Salt - 108
Based on this and the NYSERDA estimate of 5,000 current jobs, and just using active natural gas wells, how do we get to 15,000 jobs? 

All this and we still have the unaddressed issue of what is going to be done with the highly toxic wastewater at a minimum of 75,000 gallons per well.

Maybe my numbers don't add up either, but then, I'm not the expert.  The fact that we can't get the real numbers on paper is a fracking shame. 

Just saying.... 

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