U.S. energy secretary says fracking brings prosperity
ALBANY—U.S. energy secretary Ernest Moniz said Andrew Cuomo should consider the economic prosperity fracking has brought to Pennsylvania as he weighs a ban in New York.
Natural gas produced by fracking has boosted American industry by more than $100 billion and lowered CO2 emissions, Moniz said, in an interview with Capital.
“This new resource is of critical importance. If you look at Pennsylvania, it's amazing, in the Marcellus shale,” he said. “They have gone from a very, very minor contributor to the national natural gas production, to nearly 20 percent in a remarkably short period. And as we know, that has had enormous economic benefits for the state. Obviously, New York will presumably take that as one of the factors to be considered in its decision.”
Moniz acknowledged that high-volume hydraulic fracturing presents environmental challenges, but said it can also be done safely. Proper management of wells is important including minimizing water usage as well as recycling and the careful monitoring of surface water and flow back fluids.
Referring to a recent study that showed methane emissions of natural gas extraction were negating its environment benefits over other types of fossil fuels, he said there needs to greater focus on capturing methane.
Moniz recommended Cuomo follow a “science-based analysis” as he weighs whether to lift a five-year moratorium.
“Our position remains that the environmental footprint issues with regard to fracking remain challenging, but manageable,” he said. “In a sense, we know what the issues are, we know how to address the issues.”
Fracking has expanded tremendously under President Obama, who said natural gas production was key for the country's economic growth in his most recent State of the Union address. He also said it can be a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy future, angering some green groups.
In October, the country started producing more crude oil than it imports for the first time in many years, largely due to fracking in the Bakken shale of North Dakota and Montana. Moniz said the milestone was "symbolically important" for the country's economic growth.
New York has had a moratorium on fracking for more than five years and when Cuomo will decide to allow or ban the practice is unknown and he has pushed the decision off on his health commissioner for now. Cuomo faces significant pressure on both sides, but state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joe Martens recently said he doesn't expect to issue new permits before 2015, if ever. Other states with Democratic governors, including California, have allowed fracking to move forward, but with heavy regulations.
Still, despite Washington's support for fracking, Moniz said it was up to states and communities to decide if they wanted to allow it within their borders. He said Washington has never tried to influence New York's decision.
“The evidence everywhere is that obviously there are significant economic benefits and those have to be traded off in different contexts by the citizens of any given state or community against environmental impacts, against disruption,” he said. “Obviously production is a major industrial activity, so for regions where that is not the current norm, they have a decision to make in terms of the trade-offs, and I don't presume to make those trade-offs.”
Cuomo's official position has long been that he's waiting for the state health department to finish studying potential safety issues involved with fracking before he makes a final decision on whether to allow it in New York.