Appalachian Basin

Gov. Kasich and Others Dig Into Natural Gas In Youngstown

Recently, Energy in Depth – Ohio attended the Youngstown – Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce  “Ohio Shale Development Economic Impact and Opportunities” forum.

Aside from an attendance of over 200 people, what made this event so successful was the fact that all of the key stakeholders, regardless of political party, came together to discuss natural gas development and the incredible potential it has for our state. Joining Governor Kasich were Rick Simmers, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources, David Mustine with JobsOhio and Director of the Department of Natural Resources Jim  Zehringer, State Senator Capri Cafaro and State Representative Tom Letson.

The importance of Ohio’s success in developing our vast natural resources dominated the agenda, a purpose emphasized by State Representative Sean O’Brien:

Today we are having our forum on Utica Shale, this event is designed to bring government leaders, business leaders, elected officials all together to get us all on the same page to try and make the best out of the shale play that we have in the district, I think it is very important that we do it right because we are not going to get a second chance to do this. – State Representative Sean O’Brien

There were several panels that focused on the key topics of surrounding Utica Shale development. This first panel consisted of representatives from three companies developing the Utica in eastern Ohio – Chesapeake, Anadarko and BP. This objective of this engaging panel discussion was to share with the audience the status of development from each of the companies, and what they are doing to safely move forward the development of Ohio’s plentiful natural resources.

Ensuring Ohio’s continued success in this development – and the economic revitalization it brings – requires and “all-hands-on-deck” approach. That notion, of course, is what brought everyone, together in Youngstown.

This spirit was highlighted by Governor Kasich, who provided a great example of state and local officials working together with the industry to create agreements designed to mitigate local concerns and ensure the continued growth and prosperity oil and natural gas development is bringing to our state:

When you get all hacked off about something, before you go crazy, call us and lets see if we can help you work out some of the issues your going have, because it is inevitable your going to have them, like these road use agreements. – Ohio Governor John R. Kasich

Here, Governor Kasich is referring to Road Usage Maintenance Agreements, or RUMA’s.  They serve as a prime example of working together to further growth.  The accord is designed to allow local governments to ensure protection of their roads as companies move in to develop and extract resources. Working hand-in-hand with natural gas companies in their areas, the agreement allows local governments to set stipulations, and a framework to ensure that any needed repairs and maintenance are conducted on local roadways exposed to traffic associated with shale development.  In fact, natural gas companies even bond the roadways, making sure enough capital is available for these repairs, before activities even begin.

While those in attendance focused on the task at hand – the continuation of safe and responsible energy development and ensuring the optimal economic benefits it will bring – there were a few folks who had a different agenda.  Six folks from Frack Free Mahoning County (well, first there were 8, but two got arrested) held a protest outside the conference along the road leading to the event.

Energy in Depth wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and stopped to chat with activist Ms. Susie Beirsdorfer:

So we are calling for public meetings with mixed panels so that we can get a more informed view and make our own choices. – Ms. Susie Beirsdorfer

Now, as an active member and spokeswoman of Frack Free Mahoning, Ms.Beirsdorfer has had plenty of opportunities to attend the numerous open, public and diverse forums in the region.  EID-Ohio has attended several of them, most recently with Mr. Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council in Cleveland at the Cleveland City Club.

An imported protestor,  Steve Beck of Pennsylvania, also shared his thoughts with us:

The general public has a kind of sense of security because they are reassured that there is no problem . – Steve Beck

Mr. Beck shares his questions and concerns with Energy in Depth. He is correct when he says that the general public has a sense of security. This sense of security comes from an understanding of the facts of the process, confirmed recently (and repeatedly) by no less an authority than EPA administrator Lisa Jackson – there has never been a confirmed case of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing.

Add those comments to the recently released report from the University of Texas that concluded “there is no evidence of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing”. There is a reason for this strong sense of security.

This is a time-tested process that has proven both safe and effective by decades of experience, multiple government reviews and countless independent academic studies.

However, we are under no illusion that our new out of state friends, who often appear in Ohio to protest shale development, will accept any of these facts.  These folks tend only to listen to thoughts, ideas and musings that support their own internally derived opinions on energy development.  Don’t take my word for it, ask the Wizard or his very upset lady friend (1:09) who could use a calming spell.

Regardless, it’s encouraging to see our state government and the industry working together to put Ohio in the best position to safely develop our resources while remaining good stewards of the environment and our economy.  However, it’s clear we still have a long way to go in educating the public on the facts surrounding shale development.

We, of course, look forward to continuing these discussions with Ohioans across the state. It is, after all, why we are here.

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