GAMBIER —As the exploitation of the gas and oil available in the Utica shale formation comes to Ohio, environmental concerns have taken center stage, especially with regards to the process of hydraulic fracturing.
To help educate the public on the issues, Kenyon College hosted a talk by Rhonda Reda, president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program. OOGEEP is a nonprofit organization that operates no wells in Ohio. However, it is funded by voluntary assessments on Ohio oil and gas producers.
Reda is a geologist with years of experience in the Ohio oil and gas industry. She came armed with a lot of facts to present her case. About 50 to 60 people attended and the number of questions kept her going well after the planned stop time.
One point she emphasized is that in more than 60 years of “fracking” wells in Ohio, and at least 30 studies, not one case of environmental problems has been related to fracturing. All have been related to well construction.
The problem, she said, is that people have confused fracking with well construction.
She spent part of her time giving a history of oil and gas production in Ohio, part explaining some of the engineering in modern wells designed to prevent groundwater contamination, part explaining how modern well-drilling has a very small environmental footprint, part explaining the economic impact the Utica shale will have on Ohio and part explaining the role gas and oil play in meeting the energy needs of today’s society.
She also explained how Ohio’s drilling regulations are among the strictest in the nation and are being held up as a model for other states to follow. This in contrast to Pennsylvania, which she said was caught with a regulatory infrastructure that was unprepared for the Marcellus shale natural gas boom.
She said Ohio has very strict laws protecting groundwater from contamination and that if contamination is caused by a drilling operation, full responsibility lies with the oil or gas company to pay for providing clean water to the landowner.
“I’m not here to tell anyone whether to sign any drilling lease or to not sign a lease,” she said early in her program. But she does recommend to both landowners and oil and gas producers that they have baseline water tests done before drilling occurs, so that can be compared to tests later.