Question of the Day: Can You Call It a “Rally” If No One Shows Up?
Is a rally a rally if no one attends? It’s a question worth asking following up on a recent trip to Columbus for No Frack Ohio’s “Rally at the Statehouse”. The heavily advertized event was billed as a gathering of anti-natural gas advocates “in support of exposing the inadequate proposed regulations in Gov. John Kasich’s S.B. 315.” Based on the rally’s attendance it turns out there aren’t too many folks agreeing with this assertion.
Of course that’s to be expected, given the fact an independent review panel composed of federal and state regulators, as well as prominent members of the national environmental community, found Ohio’s regulations to be well managed, meeting their objectives and a model for other states to follow.
When I arrived at the Capitol, what I found was a testament to the lack of support for the group’s rally. There were about 10 people on the stairs of the Statehouse for the “rally” with a few signs calling for the end of shale development. By the time I parked my car, all that remained was a lonesome man sitting between two remaining signs. The below video sums up the scene better than my words ever could.
I thought this a bit odd given the extensive promotion for the event. After all, No Frack Ohio listed the “rally” on its website and Facebook page for over a week. The event’s Facebook page indicated the rally would draw at least 40 participants, with potential to bring over 100 supporters. This is to be expected for an event that had over 800 invited participants according to the event’s Facebook page. You can see the advertisements for the event below.
Once I understood that the “rally” was a dud, I scanned the area to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. There were, after all, a number of possible options to explain the anomaly; perhaps it had been postponed, rescheduled or ended early?
What I found was troubling. Not because it was reflective of a much larger crowd that I had missed, but rather because it showed how inconsiderate even the tiniest group of anti-natural gas advocates can be in pursuing their cause. What I found was litter, strewn about around the area of the “rally”, with enough signs and placards for only a small group of “fractivists”. They where, however, enough clutter to make the Ohio Statehouse look unkempt and to litter the ground around the statehouses steps.
I was immediately struck by the hypocrisy of this situation: those claiming to be ardent supporters of Ohio’s environment trashing the very environment they purport to be safeguarding.
Of course this development, and the entire event, left me asking a multitude of questions.
One of these questions was what could have led to such a poor showing of support? It certainly wasn’t the weather (it was a beautiful sunny day with nary a cloud in the sky) or the advertizing (as mentioned earlier there were nearly 1,000 invitations on Facebook alone). So if not these things, then what?
I think the answer to this question is pretty simple. Ohioans are starting to see the benefits that Utica Shale development is providing to our state. Whether it is job fairs like Chesapeake’s in Canton two weeks ago or the one sponsored by Congressman Gibbs in New Philadelphia last week, Ohioans are ready for this development to help put Ohio back on track.
Indeed, it already is putting Ohio on a track to economic sucess with recent reports showing that the Mahoning Valley alone has already seen over 1,500 jobs added since development began less than a year ago.
Of course, the situation in the Mahoning Valley is only one small example of the economic resurgence that the Utica Shale has brought to Ohio. Another broader example is the fact that Ohio’s unemployment has dropped nearly a full percentage point since development began. In July 2011 the state’s unemployment rate was 8.9% today it’s at 7.6%. That’s a drop of over a full percentage point in less than a year with Ohio now .7% below the national average as a result.
Of course, with the significant investment companies are announcing like those made by MarkWest, Chesapeake and Baker Hughes this is to be expected. These three companies alone are responsible for over 1.7 billion in investments in Ohio since January. No matter how you cut it, that’s a pretty significant development for the state and Ohioans who are still looking for jobs.
But the lack of support for “No Frack Ohio” seen thus far doesn’t end with this alone. It can also likely be attributed to the fact that Ohioans are no stranger to oil and natural gas development, and as such are less susceptible to baseless claims and assertions our anti-development friends often make. With this existing knowledge, combined with studies from respected institutions like the University of Texas and Penn State University confirming what Ohioans already know- it’s a tough uphill slog for the opposition to responsible natural gas development.
That’s good news for Ohio and bad news for groups hoping to make Ohio a state where anti-natural gas interests would see our citizens suffer for no greater good. While these groups will always exist, thankfully most Ohioans are using facts instead of propaganda to make informed decisions on development.