Last week, the Bipartisan Policy Center hosted Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY) and Congressman Mark Critz (D-PA) for the latest in our Bridge-Builder Breakfast series. The event was moderated by Ben Geman, a reporter covering the energy beat for The Hill. The discussion was focused broadly on how the regulatory framework for shale gas extraction in the states of New York and Pennsylvania has evolved to keep pace with the rapid technological advances and increases in unconventional gas production in the Marcellus Shale Basin, and the implications for similar regulatory efforts nationwide.
The two members exemplified bipartisanship by showing that Congress can work together across the aisle to try to accomplish effective policies. Too often these days, partisan rhetoric takes center stage instead of actual issues. Reps. Reed and Critz’s willingness to work together as co-chairs of the Marcellus Shale Gas Caucus on this new energy source will help set a path for constructive energy policies going forward.
Natural gas production from shale formations has grown significantly since 2001, when it accounted for just 2 percent of U.S. natural gas supply. According to the latest EIA projection, shale gas stands at nearly 30 percent of total gas production, with the potential to grow to 46 percent of total gas production in 2035—a rise that is unprecedented in scope.
Reps. Reed and Critz discussed the many reasons that shale gas is important for the country’s—as well as their districts’—economic, environmental, and national security interests. Shale gas resources are geographically disbursed across the U.S. and can be produced at a reasonable cost. Clearly, increased production of shale gas has helped to drive down natural gas prices over the past few years while leading to the creation of thousands of new jobs in the industry. And natural gas is substantially cleaner burning than other fossil fuels.
The impressive growth of shale gas production in regions that have not seen significant oil and natural gas production for decades—such as the Marcellus—has caused some to question the adequacy of existing state regulatory frameworks to ensure that shale gas is produced responsibly. Critics paint a picture of state regulation in the Marcellus as being outdated and insufficient, and mainstream media have echoed these views. But Reps. Reed and Critz put forward a more nuanced picture, describing how the regulatory regimes in Pennsylvania and New York State have been adapting to address shale gas production issues, and how they will continue to evolve in the future in order to balance environmental concerns with prudent development of the resource base.