All has been quiet in recent weeks when it comes to New York’s ongoing debate of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. But that doesn’t mean interest has waned. Here’s a roundup of the latest news…
– One aspect of the fracking debate that some believe has slowed a decision in New York is the wholesale price of natural gas, which dropped to decade-long lows as gas drilling and large-scale fracking increased outside of New York. The low prices led to less interest in dry-gas areas — such as New York’s portion of the Marcellus Shale — from gas companies and a slowdown in drilling.
Now, prices are back on the rise. From The Associated Press’ Kevin Begos:
Wholesale natural gas prices have doubled during the last year, and that’s bringing sighs of relief from an unusual variety of interests.
Soaring production and an unusually warm winter sent prices plunging to under $2 per thousand cubic feet last spring, prompting some to wonder whether the natural gas boom would kill demand for both coal and new renewable energy.
But natural gas is now just over $4 per thousand cubic feet. Energy experts say prices in the $4 or $5 range won’t affect the increasing use of the fuel by consumers and industry since the price was $8 just a few years ago. In Europe and Asia prices are even higher — $10 to $14.
“I don’t think anyone in their right mind” thought $2 or $3 natural gas was here to stay, said Manuj Nikhanj, the head of Energy Research at ITG Investment Research, a worldwide financial firm based in New York. He added that current prices are still “pretty cheap.”
Gas drilling companies are obviously happy with the rising price, and so are leaseholders and states that get revenue based on the market price. But the coal industry and renewable energy advocates are cheering the news, too, since gas no longer has a huge price advantage over those other energy sources.
– The Medical Society of the State of New York, which represents the state’s physicians and medical residents, has again called for a moratorium on hydrofracking in New York.
At its “House of Delegates” meeting in Tarrytown, Westchester County, last weekend, the group called for a continued moratorium on large-scale fracking and the implementation of an in-depth study of its health impacts by a state public health school.
“The issue of high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State is an importantpublic health issue for physicians throughout the state,” Sam Unterricht, the Medical Society’s new president, said in a statement. “The Medical Society and its respective county medical societies want the state to determine the potential public health impact on the environment and ground water in those areas where high volumehydraulic fracturing is proposed.”
An interesting note: New York Health Commissioner Nirav Shah was one of the featured speakers at the House of Delegates meeting over the weekend. He’s in the process of completing a review of the state’s recommendations for fracking, and a decision on whether to allow it waits until his review is done.
(AP File Photo)