FracTracker To Set Up Shop In Ohio

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Shale gas drilling continues to attract intense interest in Ohio.

Big money is involved, and jobs, and there are environmental concerns.        

Executive Director, Brook Lenker, and his non-profit group, FracTracker Alliance are new players.

FracTracker Alliance has just received a $130,000 grant from a foundation in Cleveland to set up shop in Ohio.

The non-profit was formed in summer of 2010 at the University of Pittsburgh to help primarily understand shale gas issues and impacts.

Lenker says the two-year grant will be used to hire a staffer who will work out of an office in the Warren-Youngstown area.

“We want the information to be used not only for good decision making, but also for any efforts that ultimately help protect the public’s health, protect natural resources, and overall, improve the quality of life for citizens and communities in Ohio,” Lenker said. 

The Gund Foundation says it awarded the grant to provide more transparency and understanding about shale gas drilling and called FracTracker "an unbiased source of information, data and analysis."

According to Lenker, FracTracker offers their own analysis and opinion and “points out trends that may at times be considered advocacy.”  Lenker says however, this is not their intent.

It's website says "The alliance is dedicated to enhancing the public's understanding of the global shale gas industry by collecting, interpreting and sharing data."

Lenker says the group is expanding, with coordinators in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio and is interested in addressing West Virginia.

“Ultimately, the more data and information we have from shale gas basins far and wide can make some really interesting comparative analyses by look[ing] at some trends that may not be obvious by just looking at one state or region,” said Lenker.

A published report refers to FracTracker as a "watchdog."

Lenker says while this may be fair to say, FracTracker is not advocating against the shale gas industry.

“There obviously are some potentially positive contributions that the industry makes,” Lenker said. “But with that said, the scale and intensity of this industry certainly creates a lot of issues in communities and potential environmental degradation and public health concerns.”  

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the Gund Foundation also awarded $35,000 to the national environmental group Earthjustice to review Ohio's rules and regulations on fracking.

FracTracker is based in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.