Fracking roundup: Gas prices up; Medical Society wants moratorium

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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)

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8 Comments

  1. Alex Beauchamp on

    Thanks to the Medical Society of the State of New York for their strong leadership. Their voice, added to the myriad other voices in the health community calling on Governor Cuomo to not allow fracking in New York should him all he needs to know about the potential health risks of fracking.

  2. I deeply appreciate the leadership of the Medical Society of the State of New York in calling for a moratorium on hydrofracking for natural gas and the pursuit of information about fracking’s adverse health impacts through a rigorous, comprehensive and independent process. We would all be well-served if Dr. Shah would widen the review being conducted in the NYS Department of Health to include a formal Health Impacts Assessment.

  3. Thank you to the Medical Society of NYS for advocating for New Yorkers and emphasizing to Governor Cuomo that his decision to permit hydrofracking in NYS represents a true risk to public health.

  4. The true risk to upstate NY is poverty, period. And, the MS of NY is a political organization, just like the rest of the anti-fracking organizations. They are out to protect their own interests and apparently, economic benefits of natural gas development is not one of them. This from their own website below:

    MSSNYPAC
    Contribution Form

    If medicine is your profession, then politics must be your business!

    With unprecedented challenges for medicine at the State Legislature and Congress, your contribution to MSSNYPAC has never been more necessary.

    Don’t allow the insurance industry to extract from your profession all the equity you have created and turn it into huge salaries for insurance CEOs.
    Don’t allow the trial lawyers to destroy the profession to which you have committed your life. Don’t allow your adversaries to dominate the legislative and political scene.

  5. Hugh Kimball on

    We should listen to our doctors.

    And doctors have a right to lobby as do the gas companies. I am sure the doctors have little to gain financially from wanting a moratorium, but I am leery of thos who do have much to gain.

  6. New York’s doctors, medical professionals, health organizations, and scientists are clear and united: Governor Cuomo must do a comprehensive health impact assessment and allow critically important science to be done prior to making a decision. This is common sense and absolutely in the best interest of all citizens of our great state and generations to come. Governor Cuomo, do the right thing.

  7. The Medical Society of the State of New York is calling for a moratorium on HVHF in NYS. This is a group of professionals deeply involved in the health of New Yorkers, and its members are in professions strongly rooted in science.

    The fossil fuel gas industry is calling for free reining HVHF in NYS and has an open wallet to convince lawmakers to let the industry be deeply involved in advising on lax (if any) regulations based on arbitrary numbers someone made up with not scientific backup. The industry also spends millions on advertising to convince the American public they are doing everything clean and nice and providing lots of good jobs, without any facts to back up their claims.

    HVHF actually contaminates water (for good, no clean up possible,) puts greenhouse gas methane and Marcellus radioactive radon in the air, decimates land and land value and exacerbates climate change. None of that is healthy.

    Hopefully New York State considers critical thinking important.

  8. Joanne Corey on

    Thank you to the NY Medical Society for continuing to call for a HVHF moratorium and public health study. This is a public health, medical, and scientific issue, not a political one.

    For health professionals in my region, Brooome/Tioga counties, it is a personal issue as well. Several doctors and health care professionals that I know are planning to leave the area if HVHF is permitted to protect their own and their families’ health and well-being. They are basing this on some of the data already available, as they advocate for comprehensive studies to achieve a fuller understanding of the issue. I appreciate their public stance for further study before any final decision on HVHF is made.