Pennsylvania Fracking Industry not Immune from COVID

As part of a series chronicling changes to the lives of Americans caused by the coronavirus pandemic, CBS News looked at the effects of the virus on Pennsylvania’s fracking industry.

by Zak Hudak

Photo by Laurie Barr / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

John Stavovy had become accustomed to getting monthly checks of $7,000 to $8,000 from the energy company that began pumping shale gas from his 285-acre farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania, at the peak of the Marcellus Shale boom. But as the price of natural gas fell to its lowest point in two decades, his checks have dropped to under $2,000. 

After the 2008 financial crisis, a major influx of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boosted Pennsylvania’s economy. Today the state produces more dry natural gas than any state except Texas, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). But overproduction, a warmer than usual winter and the pandemic have driven its New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) Henry Hub price down over 30% since November.

NY finally outlaws dumping of fracking waste from PA

Photo by Alex Beauchamp

New York Governor Cuomo signed S.3392 (May)/A.2655 (Englebright) into law, closing a hazardous waste loophole that has allowed over 640,000 tons of waste from fracking sites in Pennsylvania to be disposed of in the state. New York has become first state in the US to ensure that oil and gas waste that meets the definition of “hazardous” is properly regulated. Efforts are underway in Pennsylvania to take similar action.

“New York has set a powerful precedent to treat hazardous oil and gas waste for what it is,” says Earthworks’ Policy Analyst Melissa Troutman. “This victory for the health and safety of communities should be quickly repeated in Pennsylvania, the origin of NY’s fracking waste, and ultimately adopted by Congress. All communities in the United States deserve protection from potentially hazardous and radioactive oil and gas waste.”

For more information, visit Earthworks.org, or contact Justin Wasser, 202-887-1872 x137, jwasser@earthworks.org.