THE?NEW technology that allows energy companies to tap into oil and gas deep below the surface of the region has everyone looking ahead to a huge economic boom.
Land leases are going for $5,000 per acre, and property owners are anticipating a windfall from royalties if drilling proves fruitful. An economic impact study prepared for the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program estimates that drilling in the region could generate more than $12 billion for the state and could help with the creation of more than 200,000 jobs in Ohio by 2015.
But questions surrounding the practice of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" of the Marcellus and Utica Shale have slowed progress of this inevitable wave. Despite the assertion that this form of capturing the existing natural resources below ground and the use of natural gas leaves only a small environmental footprint in terms of energy use, some environmentalists have remained skeptical.
Now this issue is becoming a political football.
This month, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel blasted "fringe environmentalists" and "bureaucrats in Washington" for blocking the lease of federal lands in Southeastern Ohio's Wayne National Forest for oil and gas exploration. A plan had previously been approved to lease more than 3,200 in the forest - the state of Ohio's only national forest. The lease was originally scheduled to move forward Dec. 7.
However, the U.S. Forest Service has delayed the action for the sake of further exploration of surface impacts "fracking" may have on the forest.
Meanwhile, private property owners are leasing mineral rights like hotcakes. Unlike the forest, most of these lands that individuals are leasing are populated by people more than a mile above the shale formations.
Mandel maintains the delay in drilling results in a delay of job creation in Ohio. He said Ohioans deserve to reap the jobs and economic benefits of the abundant natural resources with which our state has been blessed. He added that "only out-of-touch extremists would tell the out-of-work trucker or the newly graduated engineer that it's in their best interest for Ohio not to increase drilling."
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is now being urged to call on Wayne National Forest Supervisor Anne Carey to reverse her position and allow for "fracking" on the federal property she controls.
As this situation unfolds, all Ohioans should pay close attention.