Fracking in Maine

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Fracking in Maine
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Fossil fuels present None[1]
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Fracking in Maine depends on available energy resources, the location of these resources, applicable laws and regulations, politics, and the power of environmental and industry groups. Decisions by policymakers and citizens, including state and local governments and ballot initiatives, affect if and how fracking occurs in a state.

Although Maine does not have any traditional energy resources, and thus fracking is not used in the state to reach oil and natural gas deposits, the state is still being affected by the increase in natural gas production. Citizens in Maine have seen lower natural gas prices, resulting in lower energy bills, because of fracking. There are concerns that fracking in other states could result in higher air pollution levels in Maine as air from the Southern and Western United States flows into the state.

According to Tom Welch, the chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the lower price of natural gas has meant consumers in Maine have saved "at least a couple hundred million dollars a year in electricity savings." These savings have come despite the fact that Maine uses much less natural gas in the residential sector than the natural average. Only 5 percent of homes are heated with natural gas in the state. Additionally, renewable energy generates about 28 percent more electricity in the state than does natural gas, which is quite different from the natural average.[1][2]

Ed Miller, the Lung Association's Vice President for Public Policy in Maine, has called Maine the "tail pipe of the United States" and has expressed concern over the potential air pollution effects of increase oil and natural gas drilling.[3]

Fracking background

See also: Fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is the process of injecting fluid -- mostly water and sand, but with additional chemicals -- into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release the oil and natural gas inside.

Recent technological advances in oil and gas drilling -- horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing -- have created a wealth of opportunities and challenges for states that have fossil fuel reserves that can be accessed through the combination of these two technologies and the industries that support them. The increased use of fracking has been an economic boon for states, not only those with fracking but also those with supporting industries, such as frac sand mining or associated machinery manufacturing.

Those opposed to fracking argue that the potential environmental and human health impacts could be large. Although wells have been fracked for over 65 years in the U.S., concerns have been raised over the ability for federal, state and local regulatory agencies to keep up with the recent and rapid growth and adequately protect the environment and human health. As with any type of energy extraction, either traditional or renewable, there are tradeoffs.

Energy consumption

For more information on energy consumption in Maine see Energy policy in Maine

Before the natural gas boom, natural gas consumed in Maine was imported from the Gulf of Mexico or overseas. The large supply of natural gas in the United States, however, means that natural gas used in Maine is now imported from Ohio or Pennsylvania instead. In 2000, Maine deregulated the state's power industry. State regulators expected to see an immediate increase in the number of companies selling electricity. It took years, however, before new companies entered the market because the profit margins were too small. The increase in natural gas has changed the market conditions and beginning in 2010 several companies began to enter the energy market in Maine.[2]

Maine is part of a 2014 agreement among the six New England governors that attempts to increase investment in natural gas pipeline capacity. The hope is that this increase in capacity will keep natural gas prices lower in the winter months, when they tend to spike as demand increases.[4]

Only 5 percent of homes are heated with natural gas in Maine, significantly less than the almost 50 percent average of U.S. homes. Instead, almost 69 percent of homes in Maine are heated with fuel oil. Other sources heat 14.3 percent of homes, followed by liquid petroleum gases and electricity.[1]

Consumption of energy for heating homes in Maine
Source Maine 2011 U.S. average 2011
Natural gas 5% 49.5%
Fuel oil 68.7% 6.5%
Electricity 4.5% 35.4%
Liquid Petroleum Gases (LPG) 7.6% 5%
Other/none 14.3% 3.6%

Natural gas-fired power plants provide 34 percent of electricity in Maine. Renewables provide another 35 percent, much higher than the U.S. average. Hydroelectric power supplies 27 percent of electricity in the state, with coal-fired power plants and petroleum-fired power plants making up less than one percent. There are four natural gas suppliers in Maine; all are privately owned.[5][1]

Where electricity comes from in Maine[6]
Type Amount generated (MWh) % of state** % of U.S.**
Petroleum-fired 2,000 0.19% 0.01%
Natural gas-fired 358,000 34.26% 0.04%
Coal-fired 3,000 0.29% 0%
Hydroelectric 285,000 27.27% 0.09%
Other renewables 367,000 35.12% 0.18%
Total net electricity generation 1,045,000 100% 0.03%
**Note: Because the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) does not include all of a state's energy production in these figures, the EIA totals do not equal 100 percent. Instead, we have generated our own percentages.

News items

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See also

External links

References

about the ability for federal, state and local regulatory