Summing Up the News Coverage on the Marcellus Shale Industry Study

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Several newspapers are reporting today on a new industry-financed study on the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling on Pennsylvania's economy. Analysts at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center weighed in on the issue with a number of reporters.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News summed up our concerns about the study best:

“You get what you’d expect from an industry report,” said Michael Wood, research director at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “The complications and costs to Pennsylvania are either minimized, understated or not even discussed.”

The Marcellus boom is good for Pennsylvania, he said, “but we’ve got to have our eyes wide open.”

The study is based solely upon a survey of the industry — what companies say they spent and what they plan to spend — which was then run through computer models. Only 12 companies responded to the survey — representing 55 percent of the drilling activity in 2010 — so the results were scaled up accordingly.

Wood said the results don’t match verifiable data from other sources — from the number of rigs operating in the state to the number of jobs created. In every instance, the numbers in the industry-funded study are higher than what can be verified elsewhere, he said.

A few other takeaways from the morning news coverage:

  • The study’s lead author, Timothy Considine of the University of Wyoming, acknowledged to the Patriot that some of the economic projections can be “squishy” by their very nature and “almost impossible to verify.” Exactly our point.
  • Jake Haulk, economist and executive director of the Allegheny Institute of Public Opinion, a self-described small government, free enterprise think tank, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the study’s estimates of job creation in supporting industries are "way over the top," and that "It's all speculation."
  • Finally, most news reports emphasized that this was an industry-financed study authored by Penn State faculty, not a Penn State study. This comes a year after Penn State officials distanced the university from a prior version of the study.

We will have more on the industry study later. For now, you can read PBPC's statement on the study. Our views are also featured in news reports from Reuters, the Scranton Times-Tribune and NPR's StateImpact project.

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