It appears this year’s talking point for fracking proponents is once again; JOBS. You might have heard the new American Petroleum Institute (API) radio ad that says “…safely producing natural gas here in Western Maryland could mean hundreds of jobs, boosting our local economy.”
Let’s review, in West Virginia from 2008 through 2012, during the “boom” of production for four of their highest producing counties (87% of the production in WV). According to Workforce WV, unemployment went from 4.4% to 6.9%. Why so little?
Let’s imagine gas drilling were in Maryland. The majority of the labor force that accompanies development is subcontracting specialty crews from other regions like Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. This includes the different drilling crews, fracking pump operators, and many other specialty crews that bring a drilled hole on-line. Many of the specialty engineers that help get sites ready, prepare site plans with roads, pads, and infrastructure are firms located outside of Maryland.
Because many of these sites will be leased by large corporations, they have dependable, tight bonds with their crews who go from pad to pad, many having worked together for several years. They travel all over the country earning paychecks they send back home; outside of Maryland. Some local equipment operators and labors maybe hired, if needed, but there are no guarantees, and API knows it.
What will the local effect be?
1. Heavy truck traffic that will impact two of our greatest assets; tourism and roads.
2. Reduced availability of affordable housing for our local labor force that currently resides here.
3. Increased demand on social services, emergency services, and law enforcement. How will we pay for increases in services and damaged roads? Severance tax, maybe!
But, only if wells are put into production. Currently, there are hundreds of wells in PA that are “shut-in” and not generating tax revenue, awaiting higher gas prices.
We don’t know how this will impact our community’s unique economics. Will this industry serve our needs by bringing children to our underpopulated schools, or by bringing our college students back home to start new careers and families in Garrett county?
There is a very short boom with gas drilling, followed by a long and impactful bust. We are currently seeing a tangible 6% growth in tourism, with jobs. Should we cast our certain successes aside for job speculations the gas industry promises?