Living my entire life in the Valley, I, like so many others, am somewhat skeptical when a potential economic boost is introduced.
We all remember the Blimp Plant, the Avanti Plant and the promise of the DFAS Center, none of which truly materialized. So now with the introduction of the economic boost associated with the Marcellus Shale and Utica drilling in our area. Both the optimists and the pessimists are sure to speak their minds.
It appears that at this point, this most recent economic boost is real and has already been an economic windfall to many landowners in our area. Rather than the ''will it happen'' concern usually supported by the optimists, the apprehension is associated with the industry itself. That unease is directed toward the risk (environmental) of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
Hydraulic fracturing has been used in the development of America's natural gas and oil resources for more than 50 years. The number of wells utilizing "fracking" technique is well into the millions. Although the method has been proven in the field, each well drilled carries its own risk and detailed techniques associated with "fracking."
Here in our Valley, due to the type of resource and its location, horizontal drilling and "fracking" is required. It is this shallow location and horizontal drilling / fracking that have many concerned with environmental risk.
Understanding the "fracking" process, which requires impressive amounts of pressure, water, sand and chemical, it must be done under strict requirements so as to ensure protection of our land, water and air. Past regulations here in Ohio were somewhat outdated or simply not specific enough to fully address this "shallow drilling fracking" process.
On May 24, 2012, the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 315, putting more requirements in effect. Proponents say they meet the needs for protection, opponents say they don't.
As a professional, certified environmental, safety and health consultant I see both sides. One can never eliminate all risk, but there are risk-reduction activities. In reading some of the highlights of Senate Bill 315, I believe that the group identified the risk and has properly addressed and described acceptable risk-reduction procedures.
Here is my professional concern directly associated with the soon-to-be increase in well drilling within our Valley: Who will enforce and do we have enough enforcement support for Senate Bill 315?
Without a strong, supported (both monetarily and in staffing) enforcement agency to carry out these and future adopted policies and procedures, we face the risk of an economic boom that in the long run creates another Love Canal.