OU Study Finds Positive Opinion Of Shale Development In Eastern Ohio

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A recent survey of public officials in 17 eastern Ohio counties that have been the most impacted by shale development showed that most feel the industry is having a positive impact on their community. The results released Monday were part of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs’ shale development community impact survey.

The results were discussed in a webinar by Scott Miller, director of Energy and Environmental Programs in OU’s Voinovich School.

In July, the opinion survey was sent to mayors, county commissioners and township trustees in the following eastern Ohio counties: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe, Muskingum, Noble, Portage, Stark, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Washington.

Of the 540 surveys sent, 227 were returned (36 of which were incomplete). In total 66 mayors and city managers, 16 county commissioners and 109 township trustees participated in the survey. Participants in Harrison, Carroll and Columbiana counties indicated the highest level of shale development activities in the 17-county region. Those activities included horizontal shale well drilling, pipeline construction, shale supply yards and refinery development, as well as some injection well construction and worker camps.

One of the questions the survey asked was “In general, how would you describe the impact of shale development to date on the area you serve?” The response to the question was generally positive.

“Across all officials, 61.4 percent reported positive impacts, 25.7 percent reported that shale had resulted in no change to their service area, and only 7.8 percent indicated that the impact had been negative,” stated a recap of the survey on Monday.

Additionally, respondents reported limited environmental harm associated with shale development. Of the respondents, 12.8 percent reported an increase in storm water runoff; 14.4 percent indicated increased erosion; and 17.8 percent indicated light pollution, with the majority of the reports coming from those in areas with ongoing shale well drilling, pipeline construction and shale supply yards. There were also reports of increased demand for water by 48 percent of the respondents and for water disposal by 25.7 percent of the respondents.

Regarding the economic impact to communities by the industry, 35 percent of local officials who responded indicated an increase in local tax revenue. Of those, 43 percent of city managers and mayors reported an increase in tax revenue, while a whopping 87.5 percent of county commissioners reported tax revenue increases. Only 22 percent of township trustees made the same assessment.

“The impacts of shale development are being felt across the region but are particularly acute in counties where respondents feel refineries or horizontal well drilling is taking place,” the report’s summary states. These biggest impacts reported were on increases in traffic volumes and the need for public road maintenance. Impacts on increasing property values and housing rental costs were also reported. There was very little reported impact on public safety.

There were also positive economic impacts reported in regard to restaurants and other retail activity.

While there was workforce migration into the shale counties, there were also reports of increased local employment in the industry.

Miller said the counties that were chosen to participate in the survey were selected based on high numbers of drilling permits sought from the state in those counties, thus disqualifying Athens County from the survey. He said that the survey is a baseline analysis and that the Voinovich School will be conducting similar surveys in the future to track how attitude and opinions may vary as Ohio’s shale play matures.