Letters: Two views on the potential of exploiting shale gas

Bernard Weinstein, an economist and associate director of SMU's Maguire Energy Institute, writes about extracting natural gas that's locked in shale formations.

Your editorial "A Tale of Two Shale States" (July 26) on gas drilling in New York state compared to Pennsylvania is full of hype and misinformation. Job-growth projections for New York state, based on squishy numbers from Pennsylvania, inevitably fail to take into account the job losses: from organic farms that can no longer operate because people just don't want to buy food grown in frack zones, from the decline of tourism and from businesses like my husband's that rely on second-home owners who want to invest in their properties. But interest in that type of investment is already waning, with just the threat of fracking hanging over our heads, and will disappear once we become an industrial zone. In my town of about 800 people and in the other towns in my county, 75% or more of the residents and landowners do not want gas drilling to destroy our way of life (we've asked them, so we know).

Preserving the rural character of our communities is not the "obsession[s] of rich, big-city greens." There are no "rich, big-city greens" in my town, and you will see antifracking signs in lawns in front of rundown trailers as well as the homes of people who are slightly better off. We just get by here in rural upstate New York, but we don't mind because community, clean air, clean water, unspoiled landscapes and quiet are what matter to us — not money.

Joanne Tobey
Westford, N.Y.

As author of the study on the potential economic and fiscal benefits from gas drilling in Broome County, I would encourage New Yorkers to look not only at the success of Pennsylvania but also at Texas, where more than 40% of the nation's jobs have been created over the past two years, due largely to resurgence of our oil and gas industry.

Fifteen years ago, the Barnett Shale in North Texas was virtually unknown. Today, it's the largest producing natural gas field in the continental U.S. In South Texas, where hydraulic fracturing is being utilized to extract oil from the Eagle Ford Shale, the unemployment rate has dropped to half the state average while sales tax receipts have jumped 70%.

Accidents related to oil and gas production from Texas's shale formations have been extremely rare, with no documented cases of ground water contamination and only a handful of surface water contamination episodes in the completion of more than 15,000 wells.

Texas has demonstrated that oil and gas extraction from shale formations can be accomplished with minimal environmental degradation while generating huge economic and fiscal benefits. Given a supportive regulatory regime, the southern tier of New York state — which sits atop a "sweet spot" of the Marcellus Shale — can become a major player in America's shale-gas revolution.

Bernard L. Weinstein
Southern Methodist University