A study released earlier this week about the potential of the Utica Shale formation was met with praise from the Consumer Energy Alliance. But the West Virginia Sierra Club doesn’t share that enthusiasm.
The Utica Shale Play Book Study released on Tuesday says there may be 20 times as much recoverable gas and twice as much recoverable oil in the Utica Shale formation as was previously thought.
Brydon Ross was very excited to hear the news.
“And it’s great news, it really is. It’s fantastic news, even if it’s 50 percent right,” he said.
Ross is the vice president of state affairs with the Consumer Energy Alliance, a nonprofit group that bills itself as an advocate for energy consumers with ties to the energy industry.
“For companies and industries that are looking to invest in the Utica Shale area and all through Appalachia as well, I mean you’re talking about areas that really need the money and need the investment is right where a lot of this resource potential is, so we see this as nothing but positive,” he said.
The Utica Shale runs under parts of five states, including northern West Virginia and Kentucky, eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Not everyone agrees that looking for more fossil fuels is the way to go. Jim Kotcon deals with energy issues for the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club. He says the emphasis on hydro-carbon extraction is misplaced.
“We cannot use all of the reserves we’ve already found without very serious adverse affects from climate change. And so if we’re going to control the increase in temperature from climate change, then finding more gas won’t help us,” Kotcon said.
The West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey in Morgantown was one of four state geological survey groups that contributed to the Utica Shale Play Book Study.
Michael Hohn is the Survey’s director. He said that eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania could see new hydraulic fracturing well pads developed as a result of the new Utica Shale study. But because many fracking wells can be drilled on one pad and the fact that the Utica Shale formation lies below the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia, Hohn says companies can use existing well pads to tap into the Utica.
“So, more wells in West Virginia, but the footprint will be similar to the Marcellus,” Hohn said.
But more fracking activity isn’t a good thing, according to Kotcon. He said the government isn’t doing a good enough job of regulating existing fracking operations.
“As a result, many of the local communities, although they benefit financially, are seeing some very significant adverse effects,” Kotcon said.
Hey said those effects include things like air and water pollution, increased truck traffic and the resulting damage to roads.
Ross disagrees. He said the fracking industry is being regulated properly.
“You can have economic development, energy security without harming your environment. We think this study is nothing but good news for the people of the Utica Shale area as well, who frankly need the investment and need the jobs and the money,” Ross said.
Either way, it appears the energy industry is quickly moving toward natural gas. SNL Financial issued a report earlier this week that shows natural gas overtook coal as the top source of U.S. electric power generation for the first time ever in April.