Review of Susan Christopherson’s  Marcellus Hydro-Fracturing What Does it Mean for Economic Development? By: Matthew Rousu and Zach Zoller

This is a preliminary presentation by Susan Christopherson. The stated goal was to analyze both the short term and long term economic impacts of Marcellus Shale development while also examining the environmental polices of shale drilling.  The goal seems to be to point out all the potential costs of drilling.

Christopherson mentions case studies in which drilling increases the local costs including road maintenance, public safety costs, health and education, public administration and truck traffic increases.  However, she doesn’t mention what studies she is citing in this presentation, so it’s tough for the reader to verify the legitimacy of the source material. 

She also discusses how “gas counties” grew both in terms of population and income.  It’s tough to know, however, how the new Marcellus shale drilling will match up with the drilling discussed between these years.  Further, with hundreds of factors that are occurring that could cause population and/or income growth in one region, these comparisons are tricky. 

She summarizes her findings by making four major points. First, we should expect for an accelerated, short-term production cycle. Second, we should be aware how the pace and scale of drilling will affect royalties, revenue, and jobs. Third, the cost burden on local government is significant. Finally, there is significant uncertainty in the long run related to Marcellus shale drilling.   

 

If graded on our "best practices"– how well does this study do?

Since this study doesn’t attempt to estimate a numerical impact, we won’t go through the checklist.  We will discuss some strengths/weaknesses.

 

What the study does well:

·        A focus on some of the limitations of economic impact studies.  I think she overemphasizes these, in fact, but she does a good job of going through potential issues.

·        She does mention the funding sources (the Park Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, and Cornell’s Center for a Sustainable Future).  Further, this is on a website (that she might have created) called “green choices”.  Between the funding sources and the other projects on the website, it seems that if there is any bias, it would be an anti-shale bias. 

What the study does not do well:

·        She seems to focus on the costs but excludes discussions of benefits, although it may be the preliminary nature of this study. 

·        Other than the tables, things aren’t cited well, so it’s tough to know where she’s getting her facts.  This is common in presentations, but when there’s no associated paper we have nothing else available to know the trustworthiness of the sources.

 

Overall Comments:

·         It is difficult to fully break down the strengths and weaknesses of this study as it is only in the preliminary stages.

·        There is promise, but we hope future work is more comprehensive at looking at both costs and benefits.  As of now, it appears that this study was just trying to list potential costs of drilling.