Ohio Fracking Boom Comes at a Cost

Natural gas drillers have set their sights on Ohio. According to the Web site FrackAction.com, Ohio is home to 3,400 producing natural gas wells, and the current economic downturn has made Ohio residents particularly vulnerable to the overtures of natural gas drillers seeking to expand hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations in the state’s Marcellus shale.

In 2004, the Ohio legislature revoked municipalities’ right to regulate oil and gas wells, setting the stage for the current boom. Since then, more than 1,000 wells have been drilled in urban and suburban areas, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. According to the Sierra Club, such “urbanized” drilling has brought oil/gas drilling literally into Ohioan’s backyards—as close as 100 feet from homes, schools, places of worship, libraries, etc.

Ohio also has mandatory pooling, an existing law by which a landowner can be forced against their will to join a “drilling unit” if the tract of land under lease for a well is of insufficient size or shape to meet the requirements.

Sadly, Ohioans have paid a price for the recent fracking boom. In 2007, a house near Cleveland exploded after gas seeped into its water well. According to ProPublica, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources later issued a 153-page report that blamed a nearby gas well’s faulty concrete casing for pushing methane into an aquifer and causing the explosion. The well was operated by Ohio Valley Energy. According to Cleveland.com, gas seeped into more than a dozen water wells as a result, making the water undrinkable.

Fracking could be threatening the health and safety of even more Ohioans. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), forty-two percent of Ohioans depend on water wells. The ODNR annually investigates around 50 water well contamination reports resulting from gas and oil drilling, according to the Sierra Club.

In July 2009, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Ohio’s laws governing gas drilling were among the most lenient in the nation. Since then the state legislature passed Senate Bill 165, the first comprehensive overhaul of drilling regulations in 25 years. However, critics of the new law, which meets the approval of the oil and gas lobby, complain that it does not do enough to protect public health and the environment.

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