Reading the article in the Marietta Times on Jan. 12, "State job expert sees oil, gas boom helping the region," made me realize how important it is that we support the moratorium (HB 345 and SB 213) on hydraulic fracturing so we can sort through all the "facts." Information put out by the oil and gas industry paints one picture, while studies from geologists, scientists, environmentalists and concerned citizens paint a totally different picture. We need to do what we learned in kindergarten - Stop, Look and Listen, then cross the street!
The statistics used in studies funded by the oil and gas industry are very exciting, but often proven to be overly inflated. The Food and Water Watch (www.foodandwaterwatch.org) out of Washington, D.C., conducted a study of the economic report put out by the Public Policy Institute of New York which claimed the development of shale gas wells in five counties would sustain 62,620 new jobs by 2018. Food and Water Watch cited flaws in the findings due to the following: undercount of the wells drilled in Pennsylvania, many high paying jobs going to transients, included payments to landowners, and use of an incorrect employment multiplier, which made the numbers much higher. The Food and Water Watch estimate was 6,656 new jobs by 2018. (documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/FalseJobsPromiseReport.pdf)
In another report, Dr. Mark D. Partridge and Amanda L. Weinstein at Ohio State University Extension on The Economic Value of Shale Natural Gas in Ohio found similar flaws with the figures used by Ohio (the study reported in the Marietta Times story) with figures coming from Pennsylvania's economic studies. This report by Dr. Partridge cited the possible double counting of economic effects from drilling activities and leasing/royalty payments, unrealistic assumptions about the spending and hiring within the state, the effect on jobs in other industries, and using an incorrect multiplier. The Pennsylvania study graph showed an increase of 100,000 jobs due to gas and oil employment from 2004 to 2010. Taking into account the "errors" Dr. Partridge believed the gain would be about 10,000. (aede.osu.edu/sites/drupal-aede.web/files/Economic%20Value%20of%20Shale%20Dec%202011.pdf)
There is no doubt in my mind that drilling for oil and gas will bring people, money and jobs to our area, but so could tourism, solar industries, or a top notch public education system. At what cost are these new faces in town? I have already seen gentlemen gathered around a table at a restaurant looking over geological maps of our area. Lots of trailers, cars and pickups with out-of-state plates parked at the fairgrounds, trailer parks, and motels. Is this "boom town" money? Are these jobs for locals or transients? Stop, Look and Listen, then act!
At what cost?
Fracking a well requires 5,000,000 gallons or more of fresh water combined with sand and up to 1 percent of toxic chemicals to make the frack fluid needed for one well. Five million gallons of fresh water used in one well is enough to provide water to four/five households for an entire year.
The seemingly small amount of chemicals really equals 25,000 to 50,000 gallons per well and experts say 25 percent of these chemicals cause cancer and mutations. Chemicals such as arsenic, xylene, benzene, magnesium to name a few are used in the fracking fluid. Many of the toxic chemicals used in the fracking process are unknown because the oil and gas industry has been exempted from the EPA's Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water and hazardous waste regulations.
All 5,000,000 gallons of water must be trucked in 5,000 to 6,000 gallon tankers. That means 800 to 1,000 trucks driving in and out of the well site on our county roads. Followed by 6,000 to 8,000 tons of sand trucked in on our county roads. Each pad can have 8 to 12 wells which multiplies the truck traffic to 9,000 to 13,000 trucks. This means 8 to 12 times the diesel pollution and road wear. Are oil companies paying to repair the roads or setting up a bond account to repair roads or does our community have to repair the roads at our expense? No extra money is being sent down from the state, only new weight regulations allowing more weight with no change in the infrastructure of bridges and roads.
After the 5,000,000 plus gallons of water, sand and chemicals are used to frack the well, some of it comes back up. Flowback is the name given to the 20 percent to 40 percent of the water, sand and chemicals that come back up and must be disposed of safely. Sometimes open containment ponds are used to hold the flowback until it can be trucked to injection wells. Closed containment units would be better to use. Again, more truck traffic, pollution and road wear.
Contamination of water wells, aquifers and ground water occurs if there are spills at the drilling sites, failure of well casings, truck accidents, or cases of illegal dumping as documented in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Unlike other industries in our area that are required to report spills to the EPA, the oil and gas industry is exempt from many EPA regulations. Therefore, this contamination may go unreported.
Air pollution is already a concern in our county and now we are adding more. Increased truck traffic will mean increased carbon emissions and other pollutants. Drilling 8 to 12 wells per pad will multiply the amount of methane release into the air. Though a vapor recovery system on each well would capture much of the methane gas, it is not required by law.
Declining property values is a serious issue for landowners and the community. Who will want to buy a home with a well a few hundred feet from the door? Our state senator, Troy Balderson, assured me that Ohio has some of the strongest regulations in the country with Sub. SB 165. That bill allows a well to be drilled within 100 feet of a rural dwelling. Sub. SB 165 also allows mandatory pooling. That means an oil company can submit an application to "steal" my mineral rights and drill on my property. Also, there are banks and credit unions refusing to loan money for mortgages if there is drilling in the area or the mineral rights are not part of the purchase.
Stop, Look and Listen, then Act! Ask your state representative and senator to support HB 345/SB 213 for a moratorium on slick water hydraulic fracturing until the EPA study comes out.
I urge each of you to attend the upcoming events at Marietta College: on Jan. 26 the showing of Gasland and on Jan. 31 a forum where you can hear experts from both sides of the fracking issue. Ask questions of these experts to draw your own conclusions.
It is vital that the citizens of Washington County know what is coming and at what cost. These are not your gran'daddy's wells!
Betsy Cook lives in Lowell.