Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hydraulic Fracturing—A Safe and Reliable Source of Energy Leading Ohio’s Comeback

Guest Column from State Representative Jim Buchy

Hydraulic fracturing is the safest way to extract minerals from below the earth’s surface. The opportunities provided by the exploration of oil and natural gas in eastern Ohio will have a major impact on the economic sector in that part of the state. The continued use of the hydraulic fracturing process in eastern Ohio also helps western Ohio by providing more consumers for our agricultural products in addition to the lower prices of natural gas in this part of the state.

A lot of misinformation and innuendo has been used to stir up concern in the public regarding hydraulic fracturing. I became a public supporter of this process in 2011 when I voted for legislation that would make oil and gas more accessible in Ohio and I then followed that with a vote in favor of more stringent regulation over the process. As a result the industry has a track record of safety in Ohio, and the U.S. EPA considers our regulations some of the most stringent in the nation.

When I hear about concerns of human safety in any Ohio industry I take interest and research the issue. In this case I have been meeting with experts from around the state to learn more about the industry. One concern raised in our area is the possibility of Class II injection wells in western Ohio to dispose of used brine. Brine is a water- based product that includes lubricants and salt to help the process of pressurizing oil and gas wells. Chemicals involved in this process are natural and best disposed of through injection wells which extend thousands of feet below the water table to put the salt water based brine back into an area of the earth with a very similar chemical make up.

There are no plans to place Class II injection wells in western Ohio and geologists say the probability of this ever being the case is very low. However, in eastern Ohio, where injection wells are placed, the material is distributed far beneath the earth with several layers of impermeable rock establishing a several thousand foot barrier between materials and the water table. The wells are also lined to prevent any possible contamination of water. There has never been an instance of water contamination related to this process because of the safety measures in place.

The hydraulic fracturing process in Ohio is creating an economic boon in eastern Ohio. Many unemployed people have achieved employment either directly or indirectly because of the industry. In western Ohio, our natural gas prices are trending lower and our agricultural products have an expanded market very close to our area.

There are two things that make a business successful: dependable labor and access to low- cost and reliable energy. In western Ohio we have some of the most hardworking people. Expanding access to natural gas in this state will attract investors and bring more employers to our region. It is all part of Ohio’s path to economic prosperity.

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