Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Utica Shale Takes the Stage

Until recently, Ohio resident's only contact with company's like Exxon Mobil have been at the gas station. Now, as a result of the potential to extract huge quantities of oil and gas under our feet, large oil and gas company representatives are far more visible, finding their way into town hall meetings, industry forums, government buildings, and construction sites from which oilfield equipment will be staged.

Along with large oil and gas company visibility,  Ohio communities and energy groups are also receiving far more attention than they once did now that the potential for jobs and land lease and royalty checks are in the offering. Everyone wants to know the facts and understand the issues. Environmental groups are also making themselves known, voicing their concerns that oil and gas companies will not protect our fragile ecosystems and water supply. Recent Youngstown earthquakes fuel speculation that the industry brings with it some unwelcome baggage.

Recognizing the need to address community concerns head on,  several energy industry organizations have come together to form the Ohio Energy Resource Alliance. A recent December 14 press release includes the following:

“Shale exploration, drilling and production have the potential to recharge Ohio’s economy, get Ohioans back to work, and help ensure Ohio’s and our country’s energy security,” said Rebecca Heimlich, director of the Ohio Energy Resource Alliance. “We understand that many of our state’s community leaders and citizens have questions and concerns about oil and gas development, and we want to make sure they get the answers they need.”

The Alliance Website has not yet appeared, but is expected to popup soon.  The January 16, 2012 town hall meeting in Bridgeport, organized by the alliance,  is the latest example of community outreach.

As the energy industry continues it's decent on Ohio, it will be more and more important to separate fact from fiction. The potential direct energy jobs, ancillary economic activity from hotels to restaurants, and landowner $$, in an economy such that it is, creates enormous interest and strong feelings. As long as the Utica Shale can be exploited in a relatively safe and environmentally conservative manner, Ohio, and a nation less dependent on foreign oil and gas, will be extremely thankful and fortunate.