Press Release
The Shale Tipping Point: The Relationship of Drilling to Crime, Traffic Fatalities, STDs and Rents in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio

 

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Media contact: Ellen Lyon, 717-255-7156, lyon@pennbpc.org

The Shale Tipping Point: The Relationship of Drilling to Crime, Traffic Fatalities, STDS, and Rents in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio HARRISBURG, PA (Dec. 17, 2014) – Communities in Pennsylvania experiencing high-intensity Marcellus Shale drilling also are seeing significant increases in crime, housing costs, traffic fatalities and their rate of sexually transmitted diseases, a new analysis released today confirmed.

The report, from the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, examined the relationship between drilling activity in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia counties and the onset of significant human and social service impacts in host communities.

The report found that counties with high-drilling activity saw increases in all four impact areas studied. These impacts did not emerge consistently in counties with less intensive drilling. This finding suggests a potential threshold beyond which multiple impacts occur.

Both case studies and statistical analysis of Marcellus Shale drilling reveal some employment and income effects in Pennsylvania’s six high-drilling counties (those with at least 400 wells drilled) – Greene, Tioga, Washington, Lycoming, Bradford and Susquehanna. High levels of drilling lead to a modest increase in employment, some of it from an influx of out-of-state workers making higher-than-average wages.

However, drilling activity and associated developments – including a transient workforce and increases in income and valuable equipment and materials on drilling sites – contribute to increases in traffic accidents, rents, STDs and crime. In turn, local governments must pay for additional first responders to address the rising crime and motor vehicle accidents, and local social service agencies must serve more families and individuals who can’t find affordable housing.

“Communities may be able to avoid or mitigate human and social service impacts by better controlling the pace of drilling. States should enact severance taxes to ensure that the industry, not taxpayers, foots the bill for these negative consequences of drilling,” report co-author and Keystone Research Center economist Dr. Mark Price said.

Some of these impacts also were apparent in the 17 medium-drilling counties (100-399 wells) and 79 low-drilling counties (fewer than 100 wells) in the three states, but the increases in these counties were not statistically significant.

"While the pace of drilling activity in West Virginia has been such that many of the human and social service impacts have yet to be felt, the report’s findings demonstrate the delicate balancing act between development of the industry and the challenges it creates for communities," stated Sean O'Leary, fiscal policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. "One way in which West Virginia is prepared to meet the challenges is with the revenue it raises through its severance tax and the creation of its Future Fund."

The purpose of the Future Fund -- which will receive three percent of general revenue severance tax collections on coal, oil, natural gas, limestone and sandstone -- is to set aside funds for the future when energy reserves are depleted.

Amanda Woodrum, a researcher for Policy Matters Ohio, said while it is too early in Ohio’s shale industry development for conclusive results, Ohioans can look to trends in Pennsylvania to inform their expectations. "With increased understanding of the many negative impacts of fracking, it may be time Ohio considers whether the costs may, in fact, end up exceeding the benefits of shale development.” Woodrum said.

The report’s main findings on drilling’s social impacts include:

  • Violent crime increased 17.7% and property crime 10.8% in the six high-drilling counties, compared to no statistically significant increases in medium- and low-drilling counties.
  • Between 2005 and 2012, drug abuse rates rose 48% and DUI offenses were up 65% in the six high-drilling counties.
  • Since 2005, rates of chlamydia infection across all the drilling counties increased 24%, compared to non-drilling counties.
  • Truck-involved traffic fatalities increased in high-drilling counties by 27.8%.
  • Social impacts apparent in Pennsylvania were unobserved in West Virginia, perhaps because drilling development there has been slower and less concentrated, and were only beginning to appear in Ohio in 2012, the last year of the study, when drilling there had just begun to accelerate.

The report also found that:

  • Pennsylvania accounts for four-fifths, or 72%, of the wells drilled across the three states since 2002. Six high-drilling Pennsylvania counties account for 52% of all the wells drilled.
  • Drilling has had only a modest impact on employment in the three states, particularly when measured as a share of total employment. The bulk of the employment gains were in the six high-drilling counties. Total growth in mining and natural resources employment in the three states from 2005 to 2012 was just over 25,000 jobs, or .22% of all employment.
  • Little evidence exists of significant population growth resulting from drilling in any of the three states.
  • In human terms, the high-drilling counties by 2012 experienced about 130 more violent crimes, 819 more property crimes, and 160 more cases of chlamydia each year as a result of the intensity of shale extraction.

    The report concludes that as the pace of drilling increases in low- and medium-drilling counties, their communities can expect the same increases in negative human and social service impacts already seen in high-drilling counties.

    Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center, noted that “Our research shows that when the scale of shale development is sufficient to move the needle on total employment and income, it is also sufficient to worsen the social problems identified in this report – no shale jobs gain without community pain.” Communities with untapped shale deposits need to understand this trade-off so they can weigh their options and prepare in an informed way if drilling does expand to them.

    This project was supported through grants from the Heinz Endowments, Stoneman Family Foundation, Hillsdale Foundation and Park Foundation.