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Enviro groups say natural gas-jobs report ignores downsides of fracking

A recently publicized report that touts the construction jobs associated with an increased use of natural gas for electricity fails to consider the ecological downsides of fracking, state environmental groups say.

Yesterday Interlochen Public Radio reported on Michigan State University Professor Bill Knudson’s finding that switching from coal to natural gas could produce a boom in construction jobs.

Professor Bill Knudson says as many as 19,000 new construction jobs at electricity plants would cause unemployment to dip by about four-tenths of a percentage point.

“That’s a one-time impact that occurs during the construction phase,” he says. “Once the construction phase is over, then that economic impact kind-of disappears.”

Environmental groups were quick to respond to the idea that increased natural gas use would bring any benefits.

“The potential economic benefits of natural gas use could easily be overshadowed and dashed entirely by the negative effects the dangerous fracking process could have on Michigan’s waters,” said Cyndi Roper, director of Michigan Clean Water Action. “We must ensure that we protect our Great Lakes and other water resources. Our waters provide a steady stream of revenue from tourism and support hundreds of thousands of jobs for Michiganders.”

In a statement today Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club criticized Knudson’s study for failing to consider the economic impact of replacing coal with increased efficiency or wind or solar power.

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is the leading method of natural gas production. It involves blasting open deep underground shale deposits with water, sands and chemicals and harvesting the methane that is released. The process requires millions of gallons of water per well, involves large amounts of often secret chemicals, and generates waste that has been linked to groundwater contamination in other states.

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