NATURAL GAS DRILLING: QUESTIONS RESIDENTS & LOCAL LEADERS SHOULD BE ASKING Part 3 of 4

Mike Lloyd is the Extension Educator/County Director of Ohio State University Extension in Noble County.  He authored the above-titled fact sheet and has generously given me permission to quote it as extensively as I see fit in a series of blogs I’m basing on his fact sheet.

I will quote it extensively because Mike Lloyd presents the various facets of inquiry well and doesn’t need anyone to translate his ideas.

He refers to both Utica and Marcellus shale as “Ohio shale” throughout.

Much of what the fact sheet covers relates to high-volume hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling to access deep shale formations, generally referred to as “fracking.”

Natural gas drilling and development had far-reaching and profound impacts in Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  It’s important that Ohio’s citizens and local leaders consider as many of the related pros and cons as possible before embarking on drilling and developing.

The fact sheet highlights the issues, questions and concerns that residents and local leaders need to consider about natural gas and other energy-related development.

Environmental Changes

The exploration, drilling, and extraction processes, as well as the infrastructure needed to transport the natural gas, all have potential impacts on the natural environment. Exploration and drilling require access roads, existing or new, as well as clearing and preparation for well pad sites. The natural gas extraction process uses high-pressure injections of water, sand, and other liquids to fracture the shale. This process is referred to as hydrofracturing, or “fracking.”

Once the wells are drilled, the well pads are reclaimed, meaning they are returned to their preceding use, with the exception of a smaller area required for well maintenance. The details of reclamation (such as vegetation type and amount) can be detailed in the leasing contract. When a well has ceased producing, it is generally the responsibility of the gas company to cap the well and fully restore the site. The wastewaters (brine) that are generated from the process require treatment before they can be discharged to the environment. Increasingly, the brine is being recycled and reused as additional wells are drilled.

Much of the environmental aspect of the drilling process is regulated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). During the permitting process, gas companies must account and plan for any expected environmental impacts they will have on Ohio’s forests, wildlife, surface and groundwater, air, and soils.

Water Quality and Quantity

How can communities plan for water withdrawals by gas companies? How can water providers sell water to gas companies while balancing the needs of other residents and industrial users? How can

landowners with private wells, springs, and septic systems be prepared for the potential impacts, rights, and responsibilities they have related to water quality and monitoring? How can communities encourage the development of local businesses, such as those related to safe brine disposal, that will offer environmental services? How can environmental and other com- munity organizations access and gather data related to the monitoring of water quality and quantity?

Noise and Air Pollution

How can communities influence the location and construction specifications of compressors and other facilities to minimize noise? How can community leaders influence the location of roads to minimize noise and emissions from trucks and other vehicles? How can environmental and other community organizations access and gather data related to the monitoring of noise and air quality?

Forest and Wildlife Habitat

How can local citizens and leaders influence natural gas development, extraction, and processes to minimize the impact on wildlife habitat and forest fragmentation? Are there efforts to monitor the impact on forests and wildlife? If not, can such efforts be created (potentially through volunteer groups such as sportsmen’s, conservation, or watershed organizations)?

Land Use

How will the development of access roads and well sites affect future forestry and agricultural, residential, commercial, and recreational land uses? How will the natural gas infrastructure particularly affect the development of land previously thought not suitable for development (such as land with large slopes)? Will new pipeline easements be aligned with current rights-of-way and not preclude the future development of property? Does local government have adequate, comprehensive plans and regulatory ordinances for potential developments?

Environmental Literacy

The school-aged population will evolve into the community’s leaders and citizenry. Can schools incorporate more targeted educational programs to ensure that this population receives the training necessary to recognize environmental impacts and to improve the management of natural resources?

Policy

Legislative policy and regulations are important in determining the actual effects of the drilling process and its influence on the distribution of benefits and costs from Marcellus gas play. Important state policy decisions include the following.

 Local Control over Drilling Activity

Passed in the fall of 2004, H.B. 278 took away from cities, villages, and townships the responsibility of issuing permits for gas and oil wells, and transferred that power to the Mineral Resources Division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

With the recent increase in leasing and drilling activities, some members of the Ohio legislature are looking to return some measurement of oversight to local governments. Should local governments be given an increased oversight responsibility over gas drilling in Ohio?

The Cost of Local Infrastructure

Few would argue that drilling and natural gas production could have significant impacts on the services that local governments and school districts provide. Experience in other states suggests that

development of Marcellus gas might affect the size of the local population, housing, emergency services, roads, other physical infrastructure, and the economy. Under current Ohio local tax structure, local governments and school districts receive few new resources to pay for any such increases in local services. Should tax rates be increased for everyone rather than just those directly benefiting from Marcellus gas play?

How can local government officials and citizens work together to influence state legislation and policies that affect the potential social, economic, and environmental impacts of natural gas production? How can local governments address the immediate need stemming from the increased demand for local services with state policies that minimize short-term revenue for local governments? How can local government officials access revenues collected at the state level for local needs?

Source:  The Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, Community Development   CDFS-1282-12   June 20, 2012 Natural Gas Drilling:  Questions Residents and Local Leaders Should Be Asking, by Mike Lloyd

You can read the entire fact sheet at http://ohioline.osu.edu/cd-fact/pdf/1282.pdf

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