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Natural gas boom New York losing out as other states benefit

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A report on natural gas exploration in Texas predicts a decades-long boom in U.S. production.

“The most exhaustive study to date of a key natural gas field in Texas, combined with related research under way elsewhere, shows that U.S. shale-rock formations will provide a growing source of moderately priced natural gas through 2040,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The study, which looked at 15,000 wells in the Barnett Shale in the northern part of the state, looked at the economics of hydraulic fracturing, which uses a mixture of water, sand and chemicals injected at high pressure into rock to break it up and release the gas.

“We are looking at multi, multi decades of growth,” said Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas and a leader of the study, which was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The United States is already the world’s top producer of natural gas. The surge in natural gas production from rock deposits in Pennsylvania and other states could turn the United States from a net importer to a net exporter of natural gas.

At home, production has bolstered regional economies and reduced reliance on coal-generating power facilities. It also has companies considering investment in energy-consuming industrial and manufacturing plants.

Reference to Pennsylvania has implications for New York, which also sits atop vast reserves of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. Tens of millions of dollars in revenue from gas drilling in Pennsylvania has helped the state and municipalities repair roads, build new bridges and increase housing opportunities as well as create thousands of new jobs.

That has not been the case in New York, where there is still uncertainty over fracking while a five-year-old moratorium is in place. The Department of Environmental Conservation is awaiting the results of a Health Department study of health effects of fracking. Two deadlines for the DEC regulations have been missed due to delays.

The Cuomo administration has said drilling permits could be issued as soon as 10 days after the health commissioner completes the review. However, legislation introduced in the Assembly would block that. A bill sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver and 44 others would extend the moratorium on permits until May 2014. While other states benefit from the natural gas boom, New York remains on the sidelines.

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