Appalachian Basin

The Shocking Truth about Ohio Shale Development Outsiders Don’t Want You to Know

Recently, The Athens News featured articles in their “Reader’s Forum” that, yet again, veer from the truth and mislead readers on the facts of oil and gas development.  What we see (time and time again) is anecdotal “evidence” offered up as fact to fit an ill-informed, fact-less narrative from those opposed to the development of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the small group of people instilling fear in Ohio’s families aren’t only spreading misconceptions about the processes and practices involved in oil and natural gas development, but they are also misleading the public on how increased regulation and technology is allowing us to safely, effectively produced our energy resources and, in turn, revitalize Ohio’s economy and create new jobs in our state.

While the year is not yet complete, any casual observer would likely indicate that 2012 was a good year for Ohio.  While other states have been worn down by continued partisan gridlock and vitriolic debate, the Buckeye State has been able to rise above the fray and focus on solutions, rather than rhetoric.  Nowhere is this more evident than the ongoing discussion on the development of the Utica Shale.

While elsewhere development has been met with controversy, that’s not the case here in Ohio.

That likely has something to do with the fact that over 137 Utica Shale wells have been drilled in the Buckeye State without a single environmental incident, and without a single violation cited by regulatory officials. At the same time, that development has helped the state progress from 48th in the nation in terms of job creation to 4th in just one year.

For that reason our political leaders across the spectrum from John Kasich (R) to Sherrod Brown (D) have all touted the benefits responsible Utica Shale development is providing to the Buckeye State.

It’s easy to see why that’s the case. Communities here in eastern Ohio are now facing a future filled with potential and promise.  A few examples come to mind.  Tops among them Carroll County.  Oil and natural gas development has helped the County halve its unemployment rate over the past two years.  In 2010, the small county of just over 28,000 people had a 16% unemployment rate.  Now, just two years later, the County has a 7% unemployment rate—well below both the Ohio and national average. Carroll County is not alone. Muskingum County’s unemployment rate has dropped by 3.4% and Jefferson County has seen 11 new companies relocate within its borders.

Anyone from our region knows that just a few years ago these areas were facing an all but certain Rust Belt future, now that same future appears to be filled with the promise of continued and sustained economic progress.  That’s a success story that has eluded eastern Ohio for far too long.

Yet, some individuals, mostly from out of state, want us to cast aside this opportunity due to unfounded fears of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing.  One recent opinion article even stated, “that fracking pollutes groundwater with a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals, creating imminent threats to public health and safety.”  The thing about inflammatory statements like this is that they aren’t supported by any objective evidence or reviews.  In fact, the main individuals pushing this message are Hollywood actors, musicians and sympathetic members of the press who identify with their cause or fail to adequately research the technology of hydraulic fracturing.

Meanwhile, those who have conducted this research are coming to a much different conclusion.   The EPA under the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations have declared hydraulic fracturing is a safe practice. State regulators in Ohio and 12 other states have come to the same conclusion as have multiple independent academic studies.

One of the latest quotes to this regard comes from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who recently stated, “There’s a lot of hysteria that takes place now with respect to hydraulic fracking,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told Congress earlier this year adding, “It can be done safely, and has been done safely hundreds of thousands of times.”

Meanwhile, the increasing use of  natural gas resources extracted from shale formations here and across the country are improving our environment, and providing billions in savings to Ohioans.  The International Energy Agency declared the U.S. has led the world in carbon reductions since 2006, thanks in large part to natural gas utilization.  At the same time, here in Ohio a recent study showed shale development has already provided Ohio businesses and residents with over $1.5 billion in energy savings.

So, yes the truth about Ohio’s oil and gas industry is shocking, but not for the reasons some would have you believe. What’s shocking is the swift economic progress being experienced in eastern Ohio and the systemic revitalization and the influx of wages, people and opportunity that is being provided by Utica Shale development.

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