I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my sleepy little borough of Vienna, Ohio. Our school district is known as the Mathews School District. This district also includes our neighboring community of Fowler, Ohio. My sleepy borough might now be facing a dangerous nightmare because of something that happened just a couple of miles away in Fowler. I had mentioned that what is best about living in a small town is how people come together in times of need. I now need to add that you can also be put in danger when even a few of your small town neighbors put personal greed before their community’s safety.
Several dozen Fowler families celebrated this week as they signed the shale mineral rights away for their properties for deep-drilling. James Brumbaugh, president of Shale Investment Fund, said the 50 to 60 checks being given out could change the families’ lives significantly. The going rate is about $3,000 per acre. Richard (a minister) and Ida Faber his wife received a bonus check for $701,580 for leasing the mineral rights to 240 acres. “The real money comes when we get products out of the wells,” Faber said. As if $700,000 is not real money. Ninety-five year-old Frank Domjancic, received a check for more than $70,000, for his 24 acres. “This is something good for the Valley,” he said. “Hopefully these leases and the resulting drilling will bring jobs,” said Anita Goodhart. “I would like my children to be able to get jobs here and stay here,” she added. Troy Mollohan plans to sign deep-drilling leases for at least 40 acres and possibly more, he said. “I haven’t heard anything bad from anyone in the community about this drilling,” Mollohan said. “Everyone I’ve talked to is happy about it.” Are his neighbors geologists or EPA workers? One minute of research on the computer and Mollohan would have read about the towns these companies ruined. Ironically Mollohan took a check on Wednesday the very same day Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law the nation’s first state ban on fracking. One would have thought Mr. Mullohan would have got some seat of his pants research Christmas Eve and again on New Year’s Eve when earthquakes, measuring 2.7 and 4.0 on the Richter scale, happened in Youngstown. Had he picked up a local newspaper he could have read, “A northeast Ohio well used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly caused a series of 11 minor quakes in the Youngstown area since last spring, a seismologist investigating the quakes said.” There is a ton more facts he could have found out about the dangers associated with drilling by the oil & gas industry if he cared more about his community’s safety than about money.
As for the jobs coming to the area that Goodhart and Domjancic expect don’t hold your breath. An analysis of the local economic effects of natural gas drilling in shale concluded that it offers few jobs to local residents because the industry requires a relatively small workforce. Oil and gas is a typical “boom and bust” business so local jobs are usually temporary. The oil and gas industry employs specialized workers who travel from well site to well site and do not stay long in any one place. Carrizo Oil & Gas now has an office in Vienna I often pass. I can tell you I’ve seen their parking lot have as many as thirty cars in it. The plates on the cars are from: Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama with no Ohio plates to be found. I suppose the local Vienna economy is benefiting to some degree with all these Southerners working here temporarily. I expect to soon go in the local IGA grocery store and see fresh okra and crawfish. The Yankee Kitchen Restaurant will I suppose be serving grits, catfish, hushpuppies and sweet tea. Once that happens locals will be calling it Confederate Kitchen. We also need to ask if we want jobs at the risk of our environment. I remember hearing that the mayor’s of towns under German occupation promoted the building of Nazi concentration camps as jobs, jobs jobs. Not a legacy I’d want to have my community known for.
While the cash will change those who took the checks it quite possibly could change the Fowler/Vienna area by putting the communities citizens in danger of heavy noisy truck traffic, chemical spills, radioactivity, earthquakes, pipeline explosions, fires, contamination, pipeline ruptures, water and air pollution, release of toxic natural gas and other environmental hazards. Then there is the cancer risk as hydraulic fracturing fluids contain dozens of toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, biocides, ethylene glycol, and hydrochloric acid, chemicals which have known to cause cancer. Studies on economic benefits funded by the oil & gas industry don’t even factor in the high costs communities end up paying in road and bridge repairs, declines in farming and tourism revenue, and reduced property values and property tax revenues. Even after the oil & gas companies have taken all they want and capped the wells there is a failure rate of 16.7%, meaning approximately one in every six abandoned wells will leak into the surrounding area.
It is also ironic that the company handing out the checks in Fowler was Shale Investment Fund from Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh along with, Quebec, Morganstown, Buffalo, North Rhein Westphalia (Germany) and Christchurch in New Zealand (which suffered a recent devastating earthquake) have also banned fracking. This is the list of cities the check takers can afford to safely move to if Trumbull County ends up with toxic air and water, an earthquake, radioactivity or cancer outbreak. A commenter on Vindy.com known as, UticaShale has been verbally attacking anyone who says we need to go slow and cautiously with this shale drilling. He recently said, “No wonder why Youngstown is the armpit of Ohio, here are two examples. Thank God oil was discovered here, the local entitles can’t produce a product. When all of us energy workers really get going up here, I will smile when we put the entitled takers in the pipe ditches experiencing work for once in their lives.” The entitled aren’t someone on unemployment or welfare the entitled are the oil & gas companies that think they can ruin our land, water and health for money. If a corporate tool moron like UticaShale is any indication of the energy workers who are drilling wells we are in serious danger. The modern version of Judas’s thirty pieces of silver paid to sell Jesus out now translates into accepting $3,000 an acre to sell your neighbors out and even a minister has bitten.
David Rovics: No Fracking Way