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Friday, April 18, 2014

"Listening Project" Starts in Carroll and Columbiana Counties

"Listening Project" to capture more than 1,000 surveys of Columbiana and Carroll County residents on how the Shale Fracking boom has impacted their lives

Communities United for Responsible Energy (CURE), FracTracker Alliance, The Ohio Environmental Council, the Laborers International Union Locals 809 and 1015 announce the launch of the Columbiana and Carroll Counties Listening Project. Throughout the spring and summer, the organizations will survey and compile the stories of 1000 Columbiana and Carroll County residents for theListening Project, highlighting the affects of the shale fracking boom on local residents and their families.

The Listening Project team, which includes nearly 40 volunteers who reside in Carroll and Columbiana counties, plans to identify areas of strength and weakness as the fracking continues to unfold.

"So far, our work in the community clearly shows that some people have done well," CURE organizer Caitlin Johnson said. "Some folks have been able to save their farms and some people certainly have gotten work. Still, someone needs to look at this industry critically and ask tough questions. That's what we plan to do."

Heavily drilled counties such as Columbiana and Carroll have had little opportunities to join the conversation and share their experiences and stories. The project team hopes to discover whether or not heavily drilled communities are experiencing the same benefits and promises touted by the energy industry and many politicians.

"The oil and gas industry has done a nice job painting a very rosy picture of what fracking will bring to our state," stated Melanie Houston, Director of Water Policy & Environmental Health at the Ohio Environmental Council, "The Listening Project will give people living in the gaslands of Eastern Ohio an opportunity to share their observations and will help the public at large learn a fuller picture of the impacts of shale gas development in Ohio."

The project aims provide residents with the opportunity to provide input and share their stories, which will be condensed into a comprehensive report - detailing the major themes uncovered during this process. Members of the Laborers locals 809 and 1015 are especially interested in whether or not oil and gas drilling companies and related outfits have been hiring locals at fair wages.

"While many energy companies are utilizing local contractors and workers where they conduct operations some counties in eastern Ohio seem to be passed over. Such is the case in Carroll and Columbiana Counties where multi-million dollar processing plants are built using companies and workforces hailing from hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away. It is important to examine the impacts of this and other aspects regarding shale development in these two counties to gauge where residents really stand," said Jake Croston, spokesperson for the Laborers Local 1015 of Canton.

FracTracker Alliance, which specializes in data aggregation and synthesis, will assist the project in analyzing the survey results. FracTracker will also produces maps, charts and graphs of the report's major findings.

"The FracTracker Alliance is interested in data-driven solutions to or conversation about the myriad socioeconomic, health, and environmental costs/benefits associated with shale gas development," FracTracker Ohio Program Director Ted Auch said, "Much of the extent hydraulic fracturing literature and research here in Ohio focuses on air and/or water quality, potential production, and waste disposal. However, very few efforts have involved actually seeking out and analyzing community sentiment. We are happy to assist from an analytical and mapping perspective."

The report will include citizen-driven policy recommendations based on the project's findings, and by October will convene two public meetings in Carroll and Columbiana to unveil the results and the recommendations.

The goal of the project is to provide residents with the opportunity to provide input and share their stories, which will be condensed into a comprehensive report - detailing the major themes uncovered during this process. The report will include citizen-driven policy recommendations based on the project's findings, and by October will convene two public meetings in Carroll and Columbiana to unveil the results and the recommendations.
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