Study: Hydraulic fracturing ban would be costly to Pennsylvania

What would happen if hydraulic fracturing was banned? A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study says it would be costly to Pennsylvania in terms of jobs and the economy.

A ban on hydraulic fracturing would have a big impact in Pennsylvania, according to a new study funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that predicts 609,000 jobs and $261 billion would be lost in the commonwealth by 2025 if a ban was enacted.

The natural gas industry and its supporters have been ramping up concern about Democratic presidential candidates' calls for either a reduction in or elimination of hydraulic fracturing, the process that has allowed the Marcellus and Utica shales in the tri-state region, especially Pennsylvania, to become the leading natural gas field in the country and the world. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., recently visited Pittsburgh touting his resolution in the Senate that would discourage any future presidents from having the power to ban hydraulic fracturing.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's study, "What If Hydraulic Fracturing Was Banned? The Economic Benefits of the Shale Revolution and the Consequences of Ending It," released Thursday examines the potential impact in seven states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio. The study said there would be a $23.4 billion cut to state and local tax revenue, as well as other economic impacts including a drop in average household income and an increase in the cost of living.

That wouldn't just be on the direct jobs in energy and the supporting industries. The study predicts a hydraulic fracturing ban would increase energy costs for households that would jump every year through 2025.

"A ban on fracking would hit Pennsylvanians hard, placing hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs immediately at risk and causing lost income and higher energy prices for our citizens — not to mention jeopardizing all of the programs and services that the state's natural gas impact tax funds," said Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce. "This new study should give pause to all of those who advocate for banning the development of natural gas, which would be devastating for our state."

A potential ban is also a concern of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which said the economy would be put to a standstill and cut thousands of jobs in energy, manufacturing and other industries.

"And worse yet, consumers, who are enjoying enormous cost savings from affordably produced natural gas, would be stung with these deep reductions in household incomes while cost of living rates will soar," said Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer in a statement. "Supporting and growing domestic shale production should be a core focus of any serious policy discussion aimed at continuing environmental progress, economic growth and American security."