Marcellus Shale Drilling's Impact on the Dairy Industry in Pennsylvania: A Descriptive Report.
Extraction and Processing Industry
Unconventional natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania has accelerated over the past five years, and is unlikely to abate soon. Dairy farming is a large component of Pennsylvania's agricultural economy. This study compares milk production, number of cows, and production per cow in counties with significant unconventional drilling activity to that in neighboring counties with less unconventional drilling activity, from 1996 through 2011. Milk production and milk cows decreased in most counties since 1996, with larger decreases occurring from 2007 through 2011 (when unconventional drilling increased substantially) in five counties with the most wells drilled compared to six adjacent counties with fewer than 100 wells drilled. While this descriptive study cannot draw a causal association between well drilling and decline in cows or milk production, given the importance of Pennsylvania's dairy industry and the projected increase in unconventional natural gas drilling, further research to prevent unintended economic and public health consequences is imperative.