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Flashpoint

September 1, 2013

FLASHPOINT: Unwise fracking policy could hinder economic development

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the amount of technically recoverable oil from shale formations has jumped 10 times in the past two years and the amount of technically recoverable shale gas is up 10 percent. In and around Terre Haute, the Illinois Basin shale formation could play an important part in stimulating the economy and helping to meet U.S. consumers’ energy needs for many years to come.

This same Illinois Basin shale formation also extends to our neighbors in Illinois — a state that recently passed common sense hydraulic fracturing legislation endorsed by a diverse coalition consisting of business, labor, environmental groups, construction, transportation and agricultural organizations. By following this approach, the state is now poised to create more than 45,000 jobs in Illinois and $9 billion in economic investment from responsible shale gas development.

Of course, safety always comes first, but those claiming that safety and energy production cannot coexist have presented consumers with a false choice. Indeed, a recent landmark federal study by the U.S. Department of Energy on hydraulic fracturing showed no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site.

With this in mind, it’s clear that we can strike a balance between both economic development and environmental protection. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn strongly supported the coalition compromise legislation in Illinois. He stated: “This new law will unlock the potential for thousands of jobs in Southern Illinois and ensure that our environment is protected.”

If Illinois, a state known for aggressively protecting consumers, is comfortable with the idea of protecting the environment while allowing safe energy development to move energy production forward, why can’t Indiana and Terre Haute do the same?

Looking east to Pennsylvania, there is a tremendous success story and model to follow. The possibility of an economic boom has become a reality due to production in the Marcellus shale — far exceeding many Pennsylvanians’ wildest expectations of just a few years ago

According to a study sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, shale development is predicted to create at least 220,000 jobs for Pennsylvania by 2020, and 397,000 jobs by 2035 — and it estimates that shale energy will provide more than $60 billion in state and local government revenue from 2012-2035. Pennsylvanians are pleased that this influx of state and local revenue will help support schools and infrastructure, while there will also be thousands of jobs to support Pennsylvania families.

With success stories like these occurring across the nation, why should Indiana be left out? There is little doubt that oil and gas production in the region could create jobs for local workers as well as revenues for the city, county and state.

Unfortunately, in the face of these opportunities, a proposed moratorium within the City of Terre Haute passed by a voice vote a few weeks ago. Currently, the language for an ordinance to amend the City Code is being drafted with the expectation that it will be presented at an upcoming City Council meeting.

With the potential for large amounts of money to be pumped into the Terre Haute area and across the state through job growth, economic development and increased spending, we have much more than direct well site jobs to lose if a moratorium is instituted. Terre Haute is also at risk for losing the indirect and ancillary jobs and economic growth that accompany shale development — such as the potential jobs in construction, manufacturing, food services, hospitality, and real estate among others.  

With the tremendous economic and resource opportunity from the Illinois Basin shale formation available, we have once in a lifetime opportunity to create jobs of all kinds for our future generations. However, if City policy makers move forward with a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, all of those job opportunities and economic growth will surely be threatened.

With much at stake in this upcoming vote, we encourage the City Council to work with Terre Haute’s energy consumers to carefully consider the best path forward for supporting positive economic development in our region now and into the future.

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