Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Ohio - the new front in the fracking war

I thought this summary from the National Center for Policy Analysis was especially timely considering that Gov. John Kasich will be discussing fracking in his State of the State speech, which you can watch live here at 1 p.m.

A New Front in the Fracking War

The state of Ohio has become one of the main battlegrounds in the fight over the controversial horizontal hydraulic fracturing process, known as "fracking." Though the state is several years behind neighboring states in the exploitation of the fracking system, its abundance of deep natural gas deposits makes it a prime target for future extraction, says the Weekly Standard.

• Unique to the state of Ohio is the large concentration of natural gas in Utica shale rock, which is several thousand feet below the normal Marcellus shale that is already widely fracked.

• Within that layer of rock, state officials estimate that as much as 15.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are trapped.

• In the last month, foreign investors committed more than $2 billion to shale operations in the state.

• According to a study by the Ohio extraction industry's educational arm, exploiting this resource could create more than 200,000 jobs and net the state billions of dollars.

• Amy Meyers Jaffe, a fellow in energy studies at the Baker Institute at Rice University, estimates that enough gas is recoverable from shale in North America to fuel the country for 45 years.

Despite the enormous benefits to be gained from exploiting a high-demand natural resource, Ohioans have turned out in droves to protest fracking on a number of grounds. However, concerns -- which are largely related to the environment -- are unfounded and place unnecessary red tape on an industry that could significantly strengthen the economy of a state with 8.5 percent unemployment.

The most recent claim against the fracking industry is that their disposal wells (storage for fracking residual materials) can cause seismic activity if drilled too close to fault lines. This concern gained momentum because of the strong series of minor earthquakes that hit Ohio during 2011, with a 4.0 magnitude quake striking on New Year's Eve. However, this concern precludes the fact that wastewater wells have been in the state since the 1980s and now number 176 sites.

A number of other concerns relate to the possibility that unchecked wastewater wells could leak into the groundwater supply. However, Ohio has specifically addressed this issue by doubling inspection staff and mandating assessments four times as often as the Environmental Protection Agency requires.

Source: Kate Havard, "A New Front in the Fracking War," Weekly Standard, January 30, 2012.

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