From the Outside Looking In: A Washington Post Article on Ohio Shale Boom

Ohioans want the economic benefits that come with shale exploration, but they don't want fracking to happen in their neck of the woods.  At least, that is the impression one gets from reading a recent Washington Post article.

The article details how the state has rolled out the welcome mat to oil and gas companies, specifically mentioning the efforts that Canton has made to encourage activity in the area and how Chesapeake has responded.  Multiple job openings from truck drivers to tax consultants are opening up, which is great for a Canton economy that has seen unemployment as high as 12.3 percent a couple of years ago while still hovering around 9 percent in recent months.  More after the jump...

However, the article also cites Quinnipiac University polls from January which show how Ohio residents are divided in their feelings about the drilling activity.  85 percent of Ohio voters believed that natural gas drilling would create jobs and by a 64-to-29 percent margin they felt that the economic benefits of drilling outweigh environmental concerns.  Yet, these voters also said by a 72-to-23 percent margin that fracking should be suspended until further studies about its impact are completed, and by a 43-to-16 percent margin felt that fracking would damage the environment.

"Ohio can't have it both ways," says Thomas Stewart, who serves as executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.  "A ban on hydraulic fracturing would result in increased energy costs and bring oil-and-gas-related capital investment and job growth in Ohio to a grinding halt, just as the positive effects of both are currently reviving once-struggling communities throughout the state."

Natural gas leaks early on in the establishment of fracking sites in Ohio and a series of environmental problems related to the shale boom in Pennsylvania give valid reasons for concern.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has tightened regulations to try and avoid similar problems as the oil and gas exploration takes off, but environmentalists do not feel that it is enough; groups have proposed 19 pages of technical revisions.

Governor John Kasich has stated that he takes the concerns seriously, while also recognizing the need to balance them against the sorely needed economic benefits of drilling.  In his state of the state address he said "You cannot degrade the environment at the same time you're producing this industry.  It is not acceptable.  And it's not a false choice.  The biggest companies know that you need to have tough environmental rules.  They can't be complicated.  They can't be over the top, but we need to have them because we can't have some yahoo come into the state and damage this whole industry because they're irresponsible."

How do you feel about the poll results?  Are Ohio residents sending mixed signals, or is there a clear majority in the drilling debate?  Discuss it here or on the message boards.

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