Out past the vacant storefronts and abandoned buildings, beyond the shuttered steel mills and decaying industrial plants, residents of eastern Ohio suddenly are seeing dollar signs.Read the rest of the article here.
In a region more accustomed to hard times than optimism, residents hope that a boom in shale gas drilling using the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing - or "fracking" - will lead to wealth, jobs and a reservoir of domestic energy that could dramatically boost the area's fortunes.
But the growth of fracking here and across the nation has raised concerns about contaminated groundwater, how to dispose of toxic waste and even whether fracking causes earthquakes.
In Ohio, that has created an election-year challenge for Democratic President Barack Obama.
With the presidential campaign focused on jobs, the economy and the need to cut U.S. dependency on foreign oil, Obama's administration has walked a fine line in trying to impose environmental rules on the growing fracking industry without stifling badly needed jobs or a vast supply of domestic energy.
It is a particularly delicate issue in Ohio, a politically divided state that may play a key role in determining whether Obama or presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney wins the presidency in the November 6 election.
The optimism over fracking in eastern Ohio springs from its spot atop the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, which hold broad deposits of natural gas and crude oil. Energy giants such as Chesapeake Energy Corp and MarkWest Energy Partners are investing billions of dollars to tap the shale in a process that could reinvigorate economically stunted cities such as Steubenville.
"All we're looking for is a chance. This is our chance," said Ed Looman of the Progress Alliance, an economic development group in Ohio's Jefferson County, which includes Steubenville.
"The politicians have to stay the hell out of it," Looman added. "The last thing we want to do is regulate these energy companies to the point that they don't want to come here."
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