March 11 2014
photo by Reuters/Adam Fenster
This commentary appeared on The Energy Collective on March 10, 2014.
Unconventional fossil fuel production, including the use of hydraulic fracturing (popularly known as “fracking”) to obtain oil and gas from shale deposits, has risen dramatically over the last decade in the United States. Most scenarios anticipate continued growth of natural gas production in the coming decades (PDF). Many states and communities are reaping the benefits of the associated increased economic activity. At the same time local governments are experiencing costs that are not being directly covered from tax revenues or impact fees on oil and gas production. Quantifying these costs can inform federal, state, and local decisionmaking surrounding unconventional energy development.
Our research team quantified the regional air-quality impacts from Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania. We found statewide damages between $7.2 million and $32 million in 2011, significant in the communities that bear the burden, but still less than the costs imposed by emissions from some of the most-polluting existing coal power plants in the state.