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Ohio Utica Shale

New EPA power plant rule is a sweet deal for fracked gas

By Bob Downing Published: June 24, 2014

From the New York-based Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy today:

 The EPA's recently proposed rule to limit power plant emissions has been heralded by several mainstream environmental groups as a groundbreaking initiative to combat climate change. But is it?

Ironically, since the rule promotes the construction of gas power plants that rely on fracking, it could be considered literally "groundbreaking." However, as a strategy for combatting climate change, the rule falls short.

Although claiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, the rule is weaker than advertised, since nearly half of that reduction has already occurred. Meanwhile, methane emissions—which the rule completely ignores—have skyrocketed because of fracking. The main ingredient of natural gas, methane is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a driver of climate change over a twenty year timeframe.

"Converting to natural gas plants, which is what this latest rule is likely to do, will actually aggravate climate change, not make things better," said Cornell's Dr. Robert Howarth. "It's well enough established to suggest the EPA is on the wrong side of the science."

New Yorkers—already faced with an onslaught of power plants, pipelines, and storage facilities—are likely to see an even greater assault of gas infrastructure in the near future if the rule is adopted. Oddly, the EPA suggests that with efficiency improvements, accelerating the construction of gas-fired power plants now could lead to the use of less gas in 2030 than without the rule—although overall consumption of gas would still be much greater than today.

"Are we supposed to find that comforting?" asks economist Dr. Jannette Barth. "Such an argument is not only self-defeating; it's an insult to everyone fighting to protect New York from fracking—and it's fatally flawed."

Barth says that advances in technology and falling costs are making wind and solar competitive with traditional energy supplies. However, by promoting natural gas right now, the federal government could tip the scales toward fossil fuels for decades to come. Once new gas-fired plants are operational, there will be less incentive for utilities to reinvest in renewables, since the massive capital outlay for gas infrastructure will have already occurred. Although proponents argue that the new rule will encourage renewables, the EPA's own Regulatory Impact Analysis predicts that it would result in eight to ten times more new power generation from fracked gas compared to without the rule than from renewable energy in 2020, and have almost no effect on renewable power generation in the country by 2030.

There is no question that energy efficiency is a worthy pursuit and dirty coal plants should be replaced—but not with fracked gas. Rather than promoting the gas industry under the guise of climate policy, President Obama should direct the EPA to develop a rule addressing all greenhouse gas emissions that will swiftly transition America from a nation dependent on fossil fuels to one built on truly clean, renewable energy.





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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.