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The Suburbanite
  • Discussion highlights developments in the Utica Shale

  • 2014 will be key for Stark County and the rest of the†Utica Shale region, as regulations take shape, more wells begin producing and business development continues.
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  • This year will be key for Stark County and the rest of the Utica Shale region, as regulations take shape, more wells begin producing and business development continues.
    That was the message Monday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where local business and labor leaders met to discuss developments in the Utica Shale. The Stark County Oil and Gas Partnership organized the event.
    More than 1,000 Utica well permits have been issued, and 251 wells are producing, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
    Only seven wells have been drilled in Stark County. Most of the activity is south of U.S. Route 30 and east of Interstate 77, and Ohio is far behind the drilling pace in Pennsylvania.
    "So we're still pretty safe in saying this play is in its infancy, and that we have a lot of good things to come," said Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, one of the speakers at the forum.
    The rules of drilling are also in flux. ODNR will soon issue new regulations for well-pad construction and water impoundments, and an industry-backed change to the severance tax on gas and oil production is in the works.
    Also, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments next month in a case about whether cities can pass their own drilling regulations.
    Pennsylvania's Supreme Court last month ruled in favor of local control, and Chadsey said the industry is anxious about a similar ruling in Ohio.
    Looking at the prospects for local drilling, Chadsey noted that production so far in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties has been somewhat encouraging but also hit and miss.
    "What happens up there will have a little bit of impact on Portage County and Stark County, and that's why it's so important to get these rules packages done, to get the tax packages done, because we need a level of certainty to operate in this industry," Chadsey said.
    While Stark County hasn't seen much drilling, companies in the oil and gas business have moved to the area, drawn by the availability of housing, office space, schools, hospitals and workers, said Bryce Custer, a real estate adviser with NAI Spring Commercial Realty.
    Over the last two and a half years, the NAI Spring office in Plain Township has been placing gas and oil companies in a seven-county area, doing deals worth more than $40 million in terms of real estate value, Custer said.
    Right now, NAI Spring is working with several manufacturers interested in Stark County and surrounding areas.
    "We hope to really see a resurgence in manufacturing," Custer said.
    Reach Shane at 330-580-8338
    On Twitter: @shooverREP