The Democrats’ Coming Civil War Over Fracking
You knew that at some point, the Democrats with constituents who would benefit from the jobs that can be created through fracking — i.e., blue-collar voters and their representatives — and the Democrats who see fracking as a chainsaw massacre of Gaia’s baby seals would conflict. Democrats have largely papered over these differences, but you can only kick the can down the road so many times.
Now that simmering dispute is boiling over . . . in Pennsylvania.
Battle lines were drawn in June when the state committee passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on fracking until health and environmental concerns in the state are more clearly addressed. Though the resolution was little more than a position statement, debate over it was intense and emotional.
But the 115-81 vote didn’t put an end to the debate, and emotions continued to run high among commonwealth Democrats.
Two of the seven declared Democratic gubernatorial candidates — U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and former Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty -– criticized the moratorium.
Even former Gov. Ed Rendell, one of the nation’s preeminent Democrats, condemned the resolution as “very ill-advised.”
[Intra]-party dissension over the controversial vote continued last month with 19 state House Democrats — many of whom [are] from the fracking region — signing a letter to state party Chairman Jim Burn that called the resolution “short sighted.”
And earlier this month eight Senate Democrats weighed in with their own letter to Burn saying they were “dumfounded” by the resolution and urged him to “re-examine” the issue.
Fracking is already a big deal in Pennsylvania, as the neat map at the link demonstrates: 65 operators, 5,982 active wells, as of June 30, 2012. Almost the entire state sits atop the Marcellus Shale formation, which is where all the good stuff is:
It will probably not surprise you that Marcellus Shale development is creating jobs, and the question of precisely how many jobs is hotly disputed, with development advocates counting the ones created by industry-supply businesses, etc., and the environmental groups defining the job creation as narrowly as possible. One estimate of direct jobs is in the neighborhood of 30,000; “indirect” jobs could be as high as 245,054.
“The Marcellus is an important new industry, and there’s certainly no question that is has, over the last several years, created employment in Pennsylvania,” said Mark Price, labor economist for the Keystone Research Center. “But it remains the fact that employment overall in that sector — you’re talking about something that is less than 0.5 percent of the workforce . . . a tiny portion of all the jobs.”
Yet industry groups such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition continue to tout the industry’s job creation, citing numbers in the millions for new jobs created by shale.
“Employment in the entire upstream unconventional oil and gas sector on a direct, indirect and induced basis will support nearly 1.8 million jobs in 2012, 2.5 million jobs in 2015, 3 million jobs in 2020, and nearly 3.5 million jobs in 2035,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesman Travis Windle.
Of course, there are some vocal environmentalists who want to make sure fracking gets stopped in its tracks:
Pennsylvania residents petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to reopen an investigation into water quality in Dimock, after publication of an internal agency analysis that linked gas drilling to methane leaks.
Ray Kemble, who lives in the town, and Craig Stevens, who lives nearby, today delivered a petition they said was signed by 60,000 people to EPA employees in Washington. They carried a gallon of brown water they said came from a well used by Kemble.
The green site Grist.org reports:
As anti-fracking activism heats up around the country, pro-fracking Dems might find themselves increasingly at odds with their base. As we near 2016, any Democrat who wants to replace Obama might have to start singing a different tune.
I, for one, will be rooting for injuries, lasting recriminations, and alliances torn asunder.