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Ohio Shale Communities Turning into Ghost Towns?

PHOTO: Increased traffic accidents are among the top concerns of residents in Ohio's most heavily-drilled counties compiled in a new report. Photo courtesy of Lynn Anderson, Frack Free Mahoning.
PHOTO: Increased traffic accidents are among the top concerns of residents in Ohio's most heavily-drilled counties compiled in a new report. Photo courtesy of Lynn Anderson, Frack Free Mahoning.
October 6, 2014

CARROLLTON, Ohio – The results of a four-month project highlight the concerns, hopes and fears of those who live in Ohio's shale country.

Over the course of four months, the social advocacy group Listening Project gathered the feelings of nearly 800 people of Carroll, Columbiana, and neighboring counties about the ways hydraulic fracturing has impacted their lives.

Caitlin Johnson, an organizer with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, says many of those surveyed are worried oil and gas drilling will erode the clean water, air, and landscape of their small town communities.

"One of our things we most often heard from survey respondents was, we asked them a question: 'What do you think your community will be like after the boom is gone?'" she relates. "And the biggest thing we heard was 'ghost town,' that was the term, and that is pretty telling."

Some of the short-term changes people mentioned in the report include increased traffic and vehicle accidents, an influx of out-of-town industry workers, and an increase in housing costs.

While 15 percent of respondents did note their community is more prosperous, Johnson says many residents say they are not experiencing the economic benefits promised by the oil and gas industry.

The report lists several recommendations to protect communities and hold the industry accountable for the negative impacts of oil and gas drilling.

To begin with, Johnson says funding needs to be set aside for local air and water monitoring.

"EPA-certified labs are really expensive," she points out. "This is a poor area and people don't have the resources to do that, so we need to have some funding set aside for that and not just trust the industry to self-police."

Other policy recommendations include the creation of incentives for companies to hire local workers, a severance tax of at least five percent to support affected communities, and policies that protect landowners during the leasing negotiation process.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH