Proponents of the growing oil and natural gas industry in Ohio told Portage County Commissioners Thursday that the industry is regulated enough.
About two dozen people, many who listed themselves as members of the Portage County TEA Party, came to Thursday morning's commission session to say they welcome the economic expansion the industry is bringing.
Mike Chadsey, campaign manager for Energy In Depth, a community outreach program of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said new horizontal hydraulic fracture drilling is bringing an economic boom to eastern Ohio.
"It's turning out to be pretty neat," he said. Carroll County landowners have reaped millions of dollars from land leases and area businesses have made more millions from drillers, Chadsey said. Carroll County leads the state with 189 well permits.
Chadsey said the industry expects to spend $1 billion in Carroll county to build pipelines in the next few years to move natural gas to market.
Commissioner Kathleen Chandler questioned the use of massive amounts (5 to 7 million gallons per fracturing) of water for the fracturing -- water that is then injected deep underground because it is contaminated with chemicals and natural byproducts from the fracturing process.
Chandler said she was concerned that putting used water into injection wells removes it from aquifers and the water cycle. "I am concerned that eventually our water table will go down and we won't have enough water" for the future, she said. Chadsey said the industry is moving away from using water to using gas, gel or other nonwater methods for fracturing the rock because water is expensive and tough to recycle.
Chandler also expressed concern that Portage County is taking waste from Pennsylvania and other counties. Portage has 17 injection wells, the highest concentration in Ohio. There are also 14 permits for drilling into the Utica and Point Pleasant shale layers for natural gas and oil production.
Ohio has permitted 518 horizontal wells, of which 236 have been drilled, according to current records from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Benjamin Kotkowski of Lakeside Sand & Gravel in Shalersville said his business has already benefited by supplying aggregate for two well pads. "We're expecting quite a boom" as more wells are drilled here, he said. "We're happy it's here."
Tom Zawistowski of the TEA Party said commissioners should be leading and not putting up roadblocks to the industry. He said people who have raised concerns about the safety of the large-scale horizontal hydraulic fracturing process are raising "potential worst-case" fears and scaring the public. He said claims of the toxicity of chemicals used in fracturing are overblown. He compared them to hair shampoo and dishwashing detergent.
Asked by Chandler to list the downside of the industry, Chadsey said the most frequently mentioned issues are the constant truck traffic during the drilling process, which goes on day and night for three-to-four months.
Once wells are producing, companies will be running new pipelines through the countryside to connect the wells. "It takes a number of weeks, months, years to regrow whatever is there," he said.
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