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Can Fracking Benefit Your Community Too?

Matthew DiLallo
March 26, 2013

The effects of fracking are felt by every single one of us. For most, the impact is felt in our wallets, as it's cost less to stay warm and to keep the lights on. To others, the effects of fracking on a local level are even greater.

Take the story of Bradford County, Pa. After years of decline as its manufacturing base moved away, the economy is now booming. In fact, things are so good that the county has been able to retire $5 million in debt and it lowered real estate taxes by 6%. A Bradford County Commissioner has said that "fracking has been an economic game-changer for the entire area."

This has many of its neighbors to the north in New York quite jealous, including my parents who live just across the border. They've lived in the region nearly a decade, and they've watched as their own property taxes have gone up while economic conditions have declined. New York has put a moratorium on fracking until the state can be sure its safe. Many in the state just aren't sure that the risks of fracking are worth these economic rewards.

Until that can be determined with greater certainty, New York will maintain its moratorium on fracking. In Pennsylvania, however, fracking is showing no signs of slowing down despite the risks. In Bradford County, natural gas exploration and production companies have drilled and fracked nearly 1,200 wells since setting up shop in 2005. While there have been no major issues with fracking in the county, the same can't be said of its neighbor: Susquehanna County.

A few years back a well that was drilled by Cabot Oil and Gas (NYSE: COG) got the company into some hot water. That faulty well is believed to be responsible for contaminating the water wells of more than 20 homes in Dimock, Pa. Cabot spent a lot of time and effort to make things right; however, the damage to the company's reputation, and to the perception of the industry, hasn't fully been repaired. While the faulty well has since been plugged and the water has been certified by the EPA as safe to drink, the situation highlights one of the real tangible risks of fracking.

The water issue in general is one that the industry takes very seriously these days. It knows that many are worried about an incident similar to the one in Dimock happening in their backyards. The industry is also well aware of an even greater water concern; that is, the immense amounts of water required throughout the fracking process. As you can see from the chart below, millions of gallons of water are used to frack just one well:

Source: Chesapeake Energy

That's one reason why the nation's No. 2 natural gas producer, Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK), has taken a page out of the environmentalist's handbook. Under its Aqua Renew program, the company now reclaims much of the water used in the fracking process and treats and recycles a vast majority of it. While that's great news, there could be more good news on the way.

You see, for coal and natural gas producer CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX), water has always been a big environmental issue. Not only does the company use a lot of water in its fr