Appalachian Basin

Marietta Times Highlights Views on Shale Development in Ohio

As I was reading the newspapers in Eastern Ohio yesterday I noticed an article in Sunday’s edition of the Marietta Times titled “Views on delay in Ohio oil, gas rush vary here.” As I read the piece I was taken back by the myths that keep rearing their ugly head in the debate on responsible development of natural gas from shale resources.  Specifically, opponents keep chanting the mantra that environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing remain unknown and  development should be delayed until further information is collected.  That’s a fine opinion but it is not based in fact.   I was pleased to see the paper  included a quote from a gentleman who had a well on his property hydraulic fractured in the 1970’s with no problems to counter the misinformed.  This anecdotal example coincides with the overwhelming amount of unbiased research, including a recent study by the Pennsylvania State University, which shows there are no measurable impacts  on groundwater as a result of natural gas production and hydraulic fracturing.  A statement agreed to by U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson as well as regulators  in 15 states with experience overseeing natural gas operations.

In Ohio, hydraulic fracturing has been utilized since 1952.  It is a practice that revitalized oil and gas exploration here many years ago.  But  this fact is being ignored by lawmakers like State Representative Denise Driehaus (D-31st District) who are using bad information to write even worse legislation that would be extremely detrimental to the continued development of Ohio’s economy.

With that background aside lets take a look at some of the assertions made in the article by residents supporting and opposing natural gas development taking place in Ohio.

 Margaret Lazer, 44, of Marietta, said she is generally not opposed to drilling, but said there would be little harm in waiting to learn more about the potential risks.

“A short-term gain for an environmental disaster is not at all what we would want,” Lazer said. “I wouldn’t have a problem at all waiting a while to see what the real potential impacts from this might be, especially the impacts of (drilling waste disposal).

As I stated above, hydraulic fracturing has been utilized in Ohio since 1952.  During that time not one case of groundwater contamination has been connected to this activity.  Don’t take my word for it though.  On June 4, 2009, Scott Kell, deputy director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) oil and gas regulatory program, appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Natural Resources, Energy and Mineral Resources where he testified:

After twenty-five years of investigating citizens complaints, (ODNR) geologists have not documented a single incident involving contamination of ground water attributed to hydraulic fracturing.

These are not only the facts in Ohio but are also reflective of the experience throughout the United States where fracturing of over 1.1 million wells has had no impact on groundwater resources. This was confirmed in a 2004  US EPA  study on hydraulic fracturing coal bed methane deposits.  If anyone knows anything about coal, they know coal tends to be shallower than the Utica shale formation.  In the report, which was commissioned by EPA Director Carol Browner under President Bill Clinton, EPA came to the same conclusion.  No significant environmental risks as a result of hydraulic fracturing were identified.

Joel Hindy, 29, of Marietta, said he hopes to see production continue into Ohio and Washington County.

“I know you have to be careful when dealing with these techniques, but right now we need job creation more than anything,” he said. “I believe this is safe and it’s worth a shot.”

Joel’s sentiments are dead on and reflect the positive experience we have had with development of our state’s oil and natural gas resources.  This overall trend is noticeable in a statement made by one local resident for the story appearing in the Marietta Times.

Dale Hendershot, 81, of Marietta, said he has a little over 105 acres in Warren Township that was drilled and hydraulically fractured in the late 1970s.

“Those two wells aren’t nearly as deep as what they’re talking about doing today, but it’s the same process,” he said. “I didn’t have any problems and I’d suspect they’ve refined the process even more over the years.”

Mr. Hendershot proves a good point. The process has been refined over the years with many technological advancements.  Seismology has become more refined. Companies are now able to see fracturing in real time.  Exploration is now controlled with the help of technical computer systems allowing for more precise production techniques. In short, technology has revolutionized shale development.

This issue is too important to our communities and economy to allow this conversation to occur with distorted facts and mis-information.  As anyone who has spent anytime in Ohio knows job creation is a huge issue for eastern Ohio.  In this area of the state, we routinely have higher unemployment and lower paying  jobs than elsewhere in the Buckeye State.  Shale development has the potential to reverse this trend by creating over 200,000 jobs.

Indeed, one needs to look no further than Pennsylvania which is already experiencing a significant economic uptick due to natural gas production. This was noticeable  in a recent study which found that  Marcellus Shale development taking place there has already generated $11.2 billion in value added or the regional equivalent of gross domestic product, contributed $1.1 billion in state and local tax revenues, and supported nearly 140,000 jobs in 2010 alone.

This is also noticeable in North Dakota.  Thanks to responsible natural gas development there the state enjoys the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.  While the national unemployment rate hovers at a staggering 9% North Dakota is experiencing full employment holding a statiscally insignificant unemployment rate of 3.5%.  This was highlighted on Monday night as part of Rock Center with Brian Williams on NBC where one of the top stories  touted the high paying jobs attributable to the development of the Bakken Shale.

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Throughout our history Ohio has had an extremely successful experience in developing our oil and gas resources.  This experience shows our state is ready and able to fully develop our shale resources.  We must be vigilant in ensuring that misinformation does not control, or derail, this important conversation.  Hydraulic fracturing has been in Ohio for over 60 years with no negative effects.  What we need are jobs and we luckily have the natural resources which can be safely and responsibly developed to help provide those jobs.


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