Something Less Than Enlightenment in Athens
A report on a local city council meeting in Athens caught our eye earlier this week, mostly because it attempts to set up a false conflict between the creation of jobs and the strengthening of our economy, and protection and preservation of our environment. To read the piece in the Athens News, you get the sense that some of the folks who attended that city council meeting believe that, when it comes to the development of the Utica Shale, it’s not possible to have both. But that’s never been true here in Ohio, and especially not so today.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the statements included in the Athens News report. Here’s one from a fella named Michael Rinaldi-Eichenberg: “I think the areas where this type of gas extraction has occurred are completely devastated, and I would hate to see that happen here. Whatever financial gains occur, I think they are very short-lived.” Another speaker declared that “the profits go mostly out of state and into the hands of a few. And success depends on keeping energy prices high.” Certainly the concerns expressed by these residents are legitimate. But just because they’re legitimate doesn’t necessarily make them valid.
How about the charge that any revenue generated from the Utica will simply be sent out of state. But how can that be true when companies are spending literally billions of dollars on the leasing of acreage from Ohio residents alone? Billions spent, by the way, without drilling a single well or selling a single barrel of oil. In July, Cheasapeake officials estimated that the company has spent between $1.5 billion and $2 billion to acquire the rights to 1.25 million acres in Ohio. Now, who do you think got all that money – someone in Texas?
Then there’s the assertion that the “areas where this type of gas extraction has occurred are completely devastated.” Does the speaker count Ohio among that list? Truth is, more than 1.2 million wells in the United States have been safely stimulated using the hydraulic fracturing process over the past 60 years, including more than 80,000 in Ohio. Would you believe in all that time that fracturing hasn’t been implicated in a single case of groundwater contamination in Ohio? You don’t have to take our word for it – that’s straight from the mouth of ODNR’s Tom Tomastik, as quoted here this summer by WYTV.
Ironically, at the same time the council meeting was being conducted, a Dateline NBC won an Emmy for an hour-long program it did last year on the economic situation in Athens County. “America Now: Friends and Neighbors” originally aired on Sunday, July 25, 2010. The program followed the lives of several Athens County and southeast Ohio residents for several months as they did whatever they could to rebound from what’s been a pretty awful economy. Much of the program also focused on the Friends and Neighbors Community Choice Food Center in Lottridge.
Now, is the Utica Shale going to be a silver-bullet solution for the economic hardships with which many in Ohio are confronted right now? No, it’s not. But does its safe development create the potential for hundreds (maybe thousands) of jobs to be created in Athens Co., and potentially millions of dollars to be invested back in the community at a time and place when they’re needed most? Yes, it absolutely does. See the study released earlier this month by OOGEEP for more information on that.
We hope the city council considers that potential the next time the subject of oil and natural gas development finds its way on the agenda. Because the truth is, we can have both – jobs for Ohioans, and a safe and healthy environment for all who live here.