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Drilling rig in Ohio, December 2015

Ohio Shale Country Listening Project Part 1

Listening Project Partners: CURE, OOC, & FracTracker

The below industry quote divides the world into two camps when it comes to horizontal hydraulic fracturing: those who are for it and those who are against it:

Fracking has emerged as a contentious issue in many communities, and it is important to note that there are only two sides in the debate: those who want our oil and natural resources developed in a safe and responsible way; and those who don’t want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all.
– Energy from Shale (an industry-supported public relations website)

The writer imagines a world in black and white – with a clear demarcation line. In reality, it is not so simple, at least not when talking to the people who actually live in the Ohio towns where fracking is happening. They want the jobs that industry promises, but they worry about the rising costs of housing, food, and fuel that accompany a boomtown economy. They want energy independence, but worry about water contamination. They welcome the opening of new businesses, but lament the constant rumble of semi-trucks down their country roads. They are eager for economic progress, but do not understand why the industry will not hire more locals to do the work.

In short, the situation is complicated and it calls for a comprehensive response from Ohio’s local and state policy makers.

Through hefty campaign contributions and donations to higher learning institutions, the oil and gas industry exerts undue influence on Ohio’s politics and academic institutions. Many media outlets covering the drilling boom also have ties to the industry. Therefore, industry has been able to control the message and the medium. Those who oppose oil and gas in any way are painted as radicals. Indeed, some of Ohio’s most dedicated anti-fracking activists are unwavering in their approach. But most of the people living atop the Utica Shale simply want to live peacefully. Many would be willing to co-exist with the industry if their needs, concerns, and voices were heard.

This project attempts to give these Ohioans a voice and outsiders a more accurate representation about life in the Utica Shale Basin. The report does not engage in the debate about whether or not fracking should occur – but, rather, examines the situation as we currently find it.

Listening Project Summary

The Ohio Shale Country Listening Project is a collaborative effort to solicit, summarize, and share the perspectives and observations of those directly experiencing the shale gas boom in eastern Ohio. The project is led by the Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC)’s Communities United for Responsible Energy (CURE), with support from the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC), FracTracker Alliance, and the Laborers Local 809 of Steubenville. Policy Matters Ohio and Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services offered resources and time in drafting the final policy recommendations.

Over the course of six months, organizers from the Laborers Local 809 and OOC worked with a team of nearly 40 volunteers to survey 773 people living in the heart of Utica Shale country. Respondents are from eastern Ohio, ranging from as far north as Portage County to as far south as Monroe County. A small number of respondents hail from across the border in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, but the overwhelming majority are from Carroll (321), Columbiana (230), Jefferson (70), Harrison (30) and Belmont (28) counties.

Respondents were asked to talk about their family and personal history in the community where they live, their favorite things about their community and what changes they have noticed since the arrival of shale gas drilling using horizontal hydraulic fracturing or fracking. They were also asked to describe their feelings about oil and gas development as either positive or negative and what they believed their community would be like once the boom ends. Finally, respondents were also asked how concerned or excited they are about 11 possible outcomes or consequences of fracking.

Summary of Recommendations

  • Create incentives for companies to hire local workers; and increase transparency about who drilling and subcontracting companies are employing
  • Tax the oil and gas industry fairly with a severance tax rate of at least 5%; use this revenue to support affected communities to mitigate the effects of the boom and bust cycle
  • Increase the citizen participation in county decision-making on how additional sales tax or severance tax revenue is spent and how the county deals with the effects of the drilling boom
  • Increase transparency around production and royalties for landowners and the public
  • Set aside funding at the local level for air and water monitoring programs
  • Mitigate noise and emissions as much as possible with mandatory sound barriers and green completion on all fracking wells
  • Create mechanisms to protect sensitive areas from industry activity
  • Levy municipal impact fees to address issues associated with drilling
  • Better protect landowners during leasing negotiation process and from potential loss of income due to property damage

Conclusion

The more shale gas wells a community has, the less popular the oil and gas industry appears to be. Carroll County is the most heavily drilled county in Ohio, and more than half the respondents said they view the drilling boom negatively. Moreover, many residents say they are not experiencing the economic benefits promised by the oil and gas industry. They see rent, cost of gas, and groceries rising as the drilling and pipeline companies hire workers from out of state and sometimes even out of the country. Residents see more sales tax revenue coming into their counties but also see their roads destroyed by large trucks. They say they are experiencing more traffic delays and accidents than ever before. Ohioans love their community’s pastoral nature but are watching as the landscape and cropland get destroyed. As it is playing out now, the boom in shale gas drilling is not fulfilling the promises made by industry. Locals feel less secure and more financially strapped. Many feel their towns will soon be uninhabitable. It is up to state and local governments to hold industry accountable and make it pay for the impacts it creates.

Infrastructure associated with horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Images from Ted Auch and FracTracker’s Oil & Gas Photos Archive:

Inception & Evolution of the Listening Project

The Ohio Shale Country Listening Project started in February 2014 with a conversation between Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC) staff and a veteran organizer who once worked on mountain top removal in a large region of West Virginia. The OOC organizer lamented the difficulty of organizing across a large geography around a specific issue – in this case, fracking. How do you find out what the people want without dictating to the community? The more experienced organizer immediately responded: What about a listening project? She connected OOC to the Shalefield Organizing Project in Pennsylvania whose organizers helped OOC think through what a listening project might look like in Ohio.

The project took on several iterations. First, OOC planned to focus the listening project solely on Columbiana County, which at the time was the third most fracked county in Ohio. Next, community leaders in Carroll County, the most heavily drilled county in the state, suggested the project also focus there. Eventually, as it became clear that the shale play was moving further south in Ohio, the project expanded into other counties such as Belmont, Harrison, and Jefferson. While attending a public hearing on pipeline construction in Portage County, OOC staff met an organizer from the Laborers Local 809 out of Steubenville. The organizer expressed interest in joining the project. Meanwhile, OOC had been in discussions with the Ohio Environmental Coalition (OEC) about the need to share the stories of people living in the middle of a fracking boom. OEC agreed to join the project. Finally, FracTracker also came into the fold, eager to assist in analyzing and mapping data gathered during the effort.

ListeningProject_Volunteer

A listening project volunteer surveys a shopper at Rogers Open Air Market

OOC staff solicited the help from about 40 volunteers to form the “Listening Project Team” who surveyed their friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. Volunteers met four times over the course of six months to discuss the project and strategize about how to reach more people with the survey. Most of the volunteer team came from Columbiana and Carroll Counties. The Laborers Local 809 also distributed the surveys to their members. Members of the team canvassed neighborhoods, attended local festivals, set up a booth at Rogers Open Air Market (photo left) and distributed an online version of the survey through Facebook and email. OOC staff spoke at college classes at Kent State-Salem and Kent State-East Liverpool, and solicited input from students in attendance.

Listening project respondents by location

The project’s initial goal was to hit a target of 1,000 – 1,500 survey responses. In the end the team fell short of this number, but were able to reach 773 people living in the Utica Shale area. This barrier is mostly due to the rural nature of the communities surveyed, which makes it more difficult to reach a large number of people in a short timeframe. The most responses came from Carroll County – 321 surveys. Columbiana County represented the second largest group of respondents with 230 surveys. Seventy people from Jefferson County, 30 people from Harrison County, 28 from Belmont County filled out the survey. The final 80 responses came from Mahoning, Stark, Summit and Tuscarawas Counties. Finally, nearly fifty responses came from Pennsylvania and West Virginia residents who live along the Ohio border (see Figure right). We promised survey respondents that all names and information would be kept confidential with survey responses presented only in aggregate.

Where have all the guardrails gone?

Guardrails vs. Trucks

Wetzel County in northwestern West Virginia is remarkable for its steep, knobby hills and long narrow winding valleys – providing residents and visitor alike with beautiful views. Along with these scenic views, however, comes difficult roadways and dangerous traveling.

Two two-lane roads traverse the county from the west, along the Ohio River, to the east. There are very few connecting roads going north-south between these two main highways, and only one of them is semi-paved. This road is called Barker Run Road — treacherous, steep and winding. There is at least a 400-foot change in elevation in about ½ mile at one point, with multiple switchbacks.

Switchbacks have a reputation for swallowing up the long trailer component of the tractor-trailer combos, which now comprise a larger part of the traffic on Barker Run Road. Many of these trucks are heading to the HG Energy drilling sites on the ridges at the top. HG Energy has a significant footprint up there. On the east ridge there are four well pads in place and two additional pads being completed to the east, and two large ones on the ridge to the west of Barker Run Road. All that traffic must use Barker Run Road. Until the recent expansion of natural gas exploration in the area, however, I had never seen a tractor and trailer come up either side of the very steep road.

The first casualty caused by the large, long trailer trucks needed to service these well pads is always the full-time sentinels of our traffic safety – our faithful guard rails that are designed to take a beating before we and our vehicle descend over the hillside sideways or rolling over. A good example of a damaged but still useful guardrail is shown below from February on 2012 – wrinkled but useful. The very sharp turn in the roadway is also obvious here.

Figure 1. Switchback curve on Barker Run Road has seen its share of damage from the increase in truck traffic.

Figure 1. Switchback curve on Barker Run Road has seen its share of damage from the increase in truck traffic.

After leaving Route 7 heading south on Barker Run Road, one encounters a particularly sharp and steep switchback curve as shown in Figure 1. It is this kind of turn that is so sharp that it allows the driver of an overlong truck to be able to look back and check the lug nuts on the rear wheels.

On a few occasions, I have been able to actually witness the attempt of our full-time guards as they try to keep a truck somewhat close to the roadway. The below photo shows that the guardrail was barely able to keep the trailer from going completely over the hillside. The truck was stuck, causing the road to be closed for hours till help could arrive (Figure 2, below).

When that incident was over, the photo below from a few weeks later, on March 16, 2013, shows the final damaged rail (Figure 3). The guardrail and posts were replaced and were largely intact when the rail was pushed over again in May of 2013 by another oversized truck trying to get up the hill and around the turn (Figure 4). Ongoing impacts with the guardrail eventually rendered it useless. Figure 5 below is a photo taken in August of 2013.

Infrastructure Damage & Costs

When the Marcellus shale gas drilling began here in Wetzel County eight years ago, it quickly became apparent that the rapidly expanding Chesapeake Energy drilling footprint in north central Wetzel County was leaving scars in the neighborhood, particularly on the roadways. The most visible damages were the road signs, guardrails, and pavement. These effects resulted in a three-layer, road bonding program implemented by the West Virginia Department of Highways. The stipulation requires that any of the large natural gas drillers or operators must post a $1-million bond to cover them statewide, or a single highway district bond for $250,000. This bonding only applies to secondary roads. The third option is to post a bond for fixed, limited miles along specific roads. Some of the pipeline contractors who might be working in a smaller area will use the latter option. Since the DOH generally knows which companies are using the roads, the department usually knows who to approach to pay for damage. In a few cases the companies have reported the damage to the Highway department, and at other times the truckers’ insurance companies report an accident or insurance claim. .

During a recent conversation with a WV-DOH representative, I was told that he quite frequently gets good cooperation from the gas industry companies in paying for damages. He said this is true even when a number of different companies and dozens of their subcontractors are using the same road.

Usually the guardrails just need to be fixed or replaced and new posts installed. Sometimes it is not critical that it be done immediately. However, at times the repairs should be done now. A good example of when repairs are needed soon is shown below in Figure 7, right. This remnant is the shredded, mangled, twisted remains of the stubborn effort of the steel to stop a truck.

The rail has now been totally sliced open, making it an extraordinary danger to the traveling public. As we enter the winter season with a bit of snow and ice on this steep road above this section, any of my neighbors could slide into this. I am optimistic that it will be replaced soon and have had several conversations with the WV-DOH to speed up the process.

By Bill Hughes, WV Community Liaison, FracTracker Alliance
Read more Field Diary articles.

Gas Trucks Blocking Roads

Companies Lack Truck Traffic Coordination

Recently, I was observing how Statoil was managing their gas well traffic, how well it was moving, and whether local residential traffic was being significantly delayed.

Figure 1. Road map referred to throughout text

Figure 1. Road map referred to throughout text

In Wetzel County, WV, gas trucks travel 4.5 miles from a Statoil pipe yard (Fig 1. Location A) in Uniontown to the Statoil Kuhn well pad (E). This trip can take at least 15 minutes for each truck. Rockford is also doing pipeline work along this route (B and D).

The roadway Statoil is using, even though it is small gravel lane, is a public route. Routine well pad traffic was moving between the pad and pipe yard. When I attempted to travel out to the well pad, I noticed some issues around the pipeline crossing. A large truck was blocking the road and all traffic was stopped. At 3:59 pm, a large dump truck hauling drill cuttings left the well pad coming towards the pipeline. Statoil personnel radioed the flagger at the pipe yard to stop traffic there.

The dump truck was stopped at the pipeline crossing, point D at 4:09 pm, where the road was blocked. It was not until 4:34 pm that traffic was finally able to proceed. This section of road was closed for 35 minutes, as was the lower road at the pipe yard.

For the past few days, Statoil has been stopping all traffic as soon as any truck leaves the well pad, whether the pipeliners have the road blocked or not.

Associated Issues

There are three serious factors that significantly hamper traffic flow along this route:

Statoil's Kugh Well Pad

Statoil’s Kugh Well Pad

  1. Statoil has flagger-radio personnel stationed at the pipe yard and at the pad, but not at the top of the hill (C) about a mile from the pipe yard. As a result, there was no way to allow any local traffic to come up the hill even when they intend to continue heading west or southeast. With a flagger-radio at the top of the hill, local traffic could be up the hill and long gone before any large trucks got to there. (Note: After a few weeks a traffic person was then stationed at the top of the hill).
  2. Not all Statoil subcontractors trucks are equipped with CB radios, so it is impossible to track their progress or location on this road.
  3. Rockford and Statoil do not use any common radio band. They do not appear to communicate with each other even though they are working along this same truck route.

This traffic block incident luckily did not include emergency vehicle traffic. If there had been any accident on or near the well pad or the pipeline right of way, no one would have been able to get through. It would seem that it is in the best interest of the companies and their employees to make sure the road is clear, all the time. When I discussed this with the tool pusher* on the well pad, he agreed. He was also concerned that there was no helicopter landing area nearby in the event of a serious accident. He runs a safe well drilling operation but wanted to be certain that an emergency vehicle could get through.

* A tool pusher is the boss man who runs the whole drilling operation as a subcontractor to the gas operator.


By Bill Hughes, WV Community Liaison, FracTracker Alliance
Read more Field Diary articles.

 

Crime and the Utica Shale

By Ted Auch, OH Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

No matter where you live in Ohio you have probably asked yourself if crime trends will be – or have already been – affected by the shale gas boom.

To quantify the relationship between crime rates and oil and gas development, we compared 14 OH counties (that have more than 10 Utica permits) to statewide safety metrics. Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Statistical Analysis Unit provided us with the necessary crime data. From this dataset, we chose to analyze several metrics:

a. three types of arrests,
b. two types of violations and accidents, and
c. misdemeanors and suspended licenses (as proxies for changes in safety).

Image of accident involving truck carrying freshwater for fracking between January 20th and 27th of 2014 during snowstorm adjacent to Seneca Lake, Noble and Guernsey Counties, Ohio adjacent to Antero pad off State Route 147 Map of Senaca Lake, OH frackwater truck accident between January 20th and 27th, 2014. Map of the area including producing or drilled Antero wells (Red Points) and laterals along with State Route 147
Accident involving truck carrying freshwater for fracking between Jan. 20 and 27 of 2014 during snowstorm adjacent to Seneca Lake, Noble and Guernsey Counties, OH adjacent to Antero pad off State Route 147 Map of Senaca Lake, OH Jan 2014 frackwater truck accident including producing or drilled Antero wells (Red Points) and laterals along with State Route 147

Crunching the Data

The data in Table 1 below are corrected for changes in population at the state level (+0.2% per year) and at the county level, with the annualized rate for the counties of interest ranging between -2.2% in Jefferson and -0.05 in Tuscarawas. We used the first four months of 2014 to determine an annualized rate for the rest of 2014. Since the first Utica permit was issued on Sept. 28, 2010, we assumed that the 2009 data would be an close measure for the ambient levels for the nine crime metrics we investigated across Ohio prior to shale gas development.

Statewide Crime Trends

Overturned frac sand trucks in Carroll County, OH May, 2014 (Courtesy of Carol McIntire, The Free Press Standard)

Overturned frac sand trucks in Carroll County, OH May, 2014 (Courtesy of Carol McIntire, The Free Press Standard)

Commercial Vehicle Enforcements (CVE) and Crashes Investigated are the only metrics that increase by 8.9% and 6.9% per year, larger than the statewide averages of 2.8% and 6.0%. Respectively, 10 of the 14 shale gas counties have experienced rates that exceed the state average. Noble, Harrison, Columbiana, Carroll, and Monroe are experiencing annualized CVE increases that are 15-57% higher than Ohio as a whole.

Meanwhile, Crashes Investigated are increasing at a slower pace relative to the state wide average, with Carroll, Noble, and Jefferson counties experiencing >5% rate increases relative to the entire state (Table 1). There is a strong increasing linear relationship between the number of Utica permits and the average percent change in CVE and Crashes Investigated. The former accounts for a combined 66% change in the latter. From a macro perspective, the Utica counties accounted for 19.8% of all OH CVEs in 2009 prior to shale gas exploration and now account for 25.1% of all CVEs.  Crashes Investigated as a percentage of state totals, however, only increased from 21.3% to 21.7%.

The other variable that is significantly and positively correlated with Utica permitting at the present time is the number of Suspended License reports, with the former explaining 22% of the average annual change in the latter since 2009.

Given that we investigated changes in nine public safety metrics we thought it would be worth categorizing the fourteen counties by state wide averages:

  1. Significantly Less Safe (SLS) – >5 of 9 metrics increasing,
  2. Noticeably Less Safe (NLS) – 4 metrics, and
  3. Marginally Less Safe (MLS) – <3 metrics.

Our findings support that about half the Utica counties fall within the SLS category, with Harrison, Jefferson, Columbiana, and Trumbull experiencing higher relative rates across seven or more of the metrics investigated. Trumbell specifically has had public safety rate increases that are greater than the state in all categories but for Suspended Licenses. Guernsey and Washington counties fall within the NLS category; both are seeing elevated Resisting Arrests and CVEs relative to changes in statewide rates. Surprisingly, Carroll County, home to 404 Utica permits as of the middle of May 2014, falls within the MLS category with only two of nine metrics increasing at a rate that exceeds the state’s. However, the two metrics that are worse than the state average (Crashes Investigated (+21.4%) and CVEs (59.8%)) are increasing at a rate that is significantly higher than the other Ohio Utica counties. Additional MLS counties include Belmont, Portage, and Monroe, which are in the upper, middle, and lower third of Utica permits at the present time.

Conclusion

While correlation does not mean causation, there is a significant correlation between certain public safety metrics and Utica permitting in Ohio’s primary shale gas counties, specifically when looking at Crashes Investigated and CVEs. Additionally, many of the Ohio Utica counties are experiencing notable increases in criminal activity. Whether this trend will continue to increase in the long-term is uncertain, but the short-term trends are concerning given that these counties populations are decreasing; there is more criminal activity within a smaller population. Finally, these trends will differ based on whether or not county sheriffs and emergency responders working with the Ohio State Highway Patrol have the necessary resources and manpower to address increasing criminal activity. This issue is of concern to most southeastern Ohioans regardless of their stance on fracking. We will continue to monitor these relationships and are working to generate a map in the coming months that illustrates these trends.

Table 1. Average percent change in select public safety metrics across Ohio’s primary Utica Shale Counties relative to parallel changes across the state of Ohio between 2009 and 2014.

Percent Change Between 2009 and 2014

Arrests

Violations

 

 

County

Felony

Resisting

OVI

Weapons

Drug

Crashes Investigated

CVE

Misdemeanor Issued

Suspended License

Noble (93, 6)

87.7

0

10.5

16.9

16.8

11.2

50.5

11.8

7.4

Harrison (232, 0)

22.3

0

35.8

0

34.3

10.1

34.7

67.1

33.3

Belmont (102, 2)

12.7

5.5

2.2

17.2

20.3

10.5

4.0

16.6

10.2

Jefferson (39, 1)

50.1

3.6

11.6

43.3

45.9

11.3

12.5

42.0

10.4

Columbiana (103, 0)

20.3

-3.8

6.9

28.9

27.1

7.9

17.8

25.9

10.6

Tuscarawas (16, 6)

41.2

28.9

7.0

0

0.8

7.6

12.0

61.4

3.6

Washington (10, 13)

10.1

52.7

-2.7

47.3

19.8

8.3

4.6

19.2

2.6

Stark (13, 17)

7.3

9.4

0.3

46.4

7.2

6.7

2.6

11.1

-0.5

Trumbull (15, 20)

32.9

18.9

8.6

42.9

42.1

9.3

11.5

41.1

9.4

Mahoning (30, 10)

21.4

20.7

3.6

81.4

31.8

6.0

8.5

27.7

10.2

Portage (15, 19)

80.7

4.5

4.1

85.0

40.3

3.5

1.6

15.5

7.6

Guernsey (99, 5)

22.8

32.9

8.1

14.7

10.4

2.7

11.0

10.8

7.6

Carroll (404, 4)

0

0

-20.2

0

-29.1

21.4

59.8

-30.2

3.8

Monroe (80, 0)

0

0

-4.1

0

0

97.4

50.8

20.4

27.0

County

16.5

4.3

3.5

10.3

17.6

6.9

8.9

17.8

5.8

State

17.4

6.7

7.3

16.5

23.6

6.0

2.8

24.5

10.5

% of State 2009

14.0

17.6

19.3

18.7

16.1

21.3

19.8

17.8

18.4

% of State 2014

12.9

15.2

16.7

16.8

14.0

21.7

25.1

13.1

14.5

2014 annualized using the first 4 months of the year.

Number of Permitted Utica wells and Class II Salt Water Disposal (SWD) wells as of May, 2014