Appalachian Basin

Shale Development Roundtable Highlights Ohio’s Success With Natural Gas Development

Yesterday we had an opportunity to attend a round table discussion at Lakeland Community College’s Holden University Center focusing on the development and production of natural gas from the state’s shale resources.  The event was sponsored by Congressmen Bob Latta (R) and Steven LaTourette (R) and included insight from many industry professionals, state officials and other key stakeholders who discussed early successes and plans for continued responsible development of our natural gas resources.

A major highlight of the event included testimony by representatives from several local small businesses, oil and gas industry professionals, regulatory and state governmental officials. While many topics were addressed one central theme resonated loud and clear – natural gas development from Ohio’s shale resources, if done well with sensible regulations, will help to revitalize our communities and provide new opportunities for the 535,000 hard working Ohioans currently looking for employment.

The roundtable provided an opportunity not only to plan but also to discuss indirect impacts that will affect upstream, midstream and downstream assets as well as  local businesses and suppliers that will provide needed materials for well completion.  Several panelists confirmed this experience in other parts of the country and indicated Ohio would see these impacts expand significantly within the next few years as exploration, development and production grow all over the state.

Indeed, although we are still in the early stages of development we are already seeing these impacts on sectors that have long been staples of our economy.  Sectors like the manufacturing and local steel industry are already seeing significant increases in their business leading to expanded hiring.  In fact, some cities in Ohio, like Steubenville, are seeing very significant upticks in employment and opportunities for their residents.  As a result of the safe and responsible development of Ohio’s shale resources the city recently experienced an uptick of hundreds of jobs resulting in the community experiencing the second largest drop of unemployment in the nation! 

Panelists also discussed the need to ensure that all Ohioans have an opportunity to gain from the benefits that increased production will bring.  They highlighted that it is critically important for the state to have an effective workforce development and educational network in place to ensure this outcome.  Such a system helps folks learn new skills and prepare for these new challenges. David Mustine of JobsOhio was on hand to provide perspective on the resources currently available. He provided a thorough rundown of  the 77 job training programs located in 13 different state agencies that exist to help people find and qualify for work.

In addition, panelists discussed the importance of a strong educational network supporting natural gas development through workforce traning, and technological research and development to name a few.  Panelists highlighted how Ohio’s colleges and universities are rising to meet this opportunity and have begun developing new programs to ensure that local residents have the education they need to capitalize on this historic opportunity.  The development of new programs are a welcome addition to complement those renowned programs that already exist in our great state.  One example is the industry leading Marietta College’s petroleum engineering program. This program is one of the oldest of its kind in the Nation and last year 100% of its graduates found jobs with over 70%  of those jobs in the oil and gas industry according to Terry Fleming of the Ohio Petroleum Council.

Of course none  of this would be possible if Ohio did not have strong state regulations in place to ensure natural gas development is done responsibly.   These regulations were recently strengthened by the passage of Senate Bill 165 which passed with broad bi-partisan support and recieved positive reception from industry and environmentalists alike.   This will only add to, and strengthen, our state’s existing regulatory portfolio developed by committed folks like Rick Simmers of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).  Rick and his team sat down over four years ago and conducted extensive reviews  to write a plan to structure, staff and fund a strong regulatory program based on lessons learned from other states.  The program he and his team put in place is working in Ohio, a fact that was confirmed when STRONGER reviewed our states regulation in January 2011.

STRONGER is  a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization that assists states in documenting the environmental regulations associated with the exploration, development and production of crude oil and natural gas.  In their review the group found:

 Ohio’s program is overall well managed, professional and meeting its objectives.

 They also made note of many areas of strength for our regulatory system including strong enforcement tools, review of contamination pathways and comprehensive well completion reporting requirements to name a few.  Facts like these give credence to the statement made by Scott Rotruck of Chesapeake Energy that “Ohio has all of the tools we need to operate in a predictable business and regulatory environment”.

All in all yesterday’s conversation was a great experience and will help ensure that industry, government and other non-governmental agencies continue to work together to ensure natural gas development in Ohio is done correctly maximizing the benefit for all.  This roundtable was not only educational but is also a reflection of what has happened all over our state and in the state house in Columbus. Shale and its development is the conversation of the day in every part of Ohio and events like this discussion, and those like it occurring in homes across our state, will ensure we continue to  successfully and safely develop this needed resource.

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