Ohio’s latest oil boom could help the local economy, but the Stark Development Board has a list of recommendations to address health and safety concerns.
The Stark Development Board has recommendations for the state as energy companies begin drilling for oil and gas in the Utica shale.
A Stark Development committee studied the renewed interest in oil and natural gas drilling in Stark County. While the committee is optimistic drilling could mean new jobs and more tax revenue, there are concerns about ensuring health and safety.
“There is the potential to completely change our economy here,” said Steve Paquette, Stark Development’s president.
While an oil boom could be a gold mine for the area, Paquette said, state officials must be concerned about how drilling affects “the health and well being of the community.”
Stark Development decided to research the drilling and hydraulic fracturing after hearing “a tremendous amount of buzz, both negative and positive,” said Joe Halter, president of Solmet Technologies and committee member.
The goal was to find facts, Halter said. “The last thing we want is the contamination of our water system.”
Ten members of Stark Development spent several months studying drilling. They have compiled a report — available at the board’s website, www.starkcoohio.com — that includes 10 recommendations for state officials to consider.
Stark Development now hopes the state will take steps to make sure regulations exist to help prevent potential hazards and make certain there are people in place to enforce regulations as drilling expands.
OIL INDUSTRY BOOM
Ohio has been a source for oil and natural gas since the 19th century. There are about 3,000 producing natural gas and oil wells in Stark County.
Interest is growing as horizontal drilling is helping companies reach deep shale rock formations. By drilling horizontally through the rock, companies can access a larger pool of oil, gas and other hydrocarbons.
Last month, Chesapeake Energy announced it believes oil and wet gas exist in Utica shale deposits, and said it values the deposits at between $15 billion and $20 billion. Chesapeake has spent the past year leasing mineral rights from property owners in Stark, Carroll and other counties, hoping to access the Utica shale.
Horizontal drilling requires larger rigs and more equipment then traditional vertical wells. It also relies heavily on hydraulic fracturing — called fracking — to break up rock and release the hydrocarbons. Hydraulic fracturing involves forcing a slurry of water, sand and chemicals into the well to break up the rock.
Opponents to drilling contend fracking is dangerous and could contaminate aquifers. They cite problems with disposing of used fracking fluid, as well as heavy truck traffic because of the need to haul water to drilling sites.
PART OF REVIEW
Development board committee members studied the concerns, Paquette said.
Page 2 of 2 - “The concern of the committee was the health and safety for the community and the people,” he said.
SDB’s committee looked at the potential for water contamination, air and noise pollution, increased traffic, road conditions and the possibility of methane leaking into houses or water wells. It also examined the state and federal regulations governing drilling.
The committee’s recommendations include:
• Making certain the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has money to hire inspectors and compliance officers as drilling increases, and making certain inspectors are at a well site during critical times.
• Emphasizing inspection of wells during construction, and developing containment standards to minimize potential damage from on-site accidents.
• That state officials monitor drilling in other states to prepare for potential problems here.
• Creating minimum standards that must be met by energy companies and subcontractors that want to work in Ohio.
• Regulating disposal of brine and hydraulic fracturing material and flow back fluids.
Development board members plan to send the recommendations to Gov. John Kasich, legislators and agencies that regulate drilling.