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More Crashes and Arrests? Report Examines Social Costs of Fracking in Ohio

PHOTO: 2014 accident involving a truck carrying freshwater for fracking occurred adjacent to Seneca Lake, Ohio. CREDIT: FracTracker/Leatra Harper.
PHOTO: 2014 accident involving a truck carrying freshwater for fracking occurred adjacent to Seneca Lake, Ohio. CREDIT: FracTracker/Leatra Harper.
June 16, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The rapid growth of the oil and gas industry is changing the faces of many of Ohio's small towns. A new analysis finds a correlation between certain public safety standards and permits to frack for natural gas in counties over the Utica shale formation.

The report from FracTracker looked at road safety and crime rates in the 14 counties with the most Utica permits issued between 2009 and 2014.

According to report author Ted Auch, they found the rates changed faster in those counties than in the rest of the state.

"Crashes and commercial vehicle enforcement are increasing by about 6.9% and 8.9% per year across these counties," Auch said. "At the state level they're increasing by 6 and 2.8% respectively."

The report also found some counties experiencing significantly higher crime rates, including more felony charges, as well as resisting-arrest, weapons and suspended-license violations.

The report used data provided by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, with 2009 as a starting point, since the first Utica permit was issued in September of 2010.

Auch said increases in drug violations are likely a byproduct of changes in culture. But other arrest categories and crashes are directly related to the industry and its transient workforce.

He said there's been some pushback between local and migratory culture.

"They don't have a lot of socio-economic equity in the community they're living in at the time," said Auch. "They're coming into a place that they don't know, and they'll be gone soon enough. That's a big stressor right now."

Supporters of oil and gas development say it creates jobs and promotes energy independence. And some homeowners are profiting from leasing of their land for oil and gas exploration.

But Auch said other costs must be weighed, including the price for increased public safety enforcement and emergency responders, and how much it costs the state.

"It would be nice to have a conversation about maybe the industry footing some of that bill," Auch said. "Because this appears to be directly related to their footprint."

Auch said they intend to use the data as a foundation for a greater study. They're also trying to get more information from sheriff's offices.

Read the FracTracker report Crime and the Utica Shale.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH