A letter to the Editor of the Athens News that mentions “Look Before You Lease”. Thanks to Bob Sheak for helping us to spread the word about the importance of information based decision making around shale development. We don’t know how this will play out in Athens county, but there is a renewed urgency for those who are in the position to extend their lease agreement to review our landowner toolkit and and learn about the other groups mentioned in Mr.Sheak’s letter before making the decision to extend, work out additional terms, wait and see how the first wells produce, or wait for results from studies currently being conducted by federal agencies before making a final decision. If you have a neighbor or friend who is in the group awaiting payment from Cunningham, or is thinking about leasing through another landowner group make sure they have visited our site, or request a landowner toolkit for them. We will send a CD version by mail.
To the Editor:
This Cunningham Energy decision not to sign the oil and gas leases aggregated by local attorney John Lavelle illustrates how little control Athens Countians have in such matters, even with legal advice. Low natural gas prices, too much supply, a moderate winter, perhaps new questions about how to dispose of wastewater — all may help to explain why Cunningham has had trouble finding a corporate partner prepared to share the costs of shale gas/oil mining and to take responsibility for the various operational aspects of such mining.
Groups and individuals such as Look Before You Lease, SD-Frac, Sierra Club, Heather Cantino, Christine Hughes and their many strong allies, letter writers, and others in Athens have worked hard to educate local officials and the general population about the extensively documented dangers of shale gas mining. According to a student-driven poll of over 350 mostly Athens County residents reported Monday in The Athens NEWS, about half of the respondents opposed the option of going ahead with fracking until there are adequate safety regulations in place. My guess is that, despite the economic recession that still rages, the number is this high because of the educational efforts of the aforementioned groups.
I also guess that when, for example, natural gas prices rise and the infrastructure to move the gas is in place, Cunningham will find a corporate partner to commence the drilling in Athens. There are not many large economic alternatives available now for new public investments, publicly supported projects, or a significant shift to solar or wind energy. And the low-or-no tax and small-government policies of Republicans seem to resonate powerfully with a large number of citizens across Ohio and the U.S. So, if there is oil or gas in our part of the Utica shale formation and it can be profitably extracted, the mining corporations will be back.
In the meantime, from the perspective of about half of Athens County, there is some welcome additional time for residents to learn and think about and perhaps see implemented (to some extent) more adequate regulations than now exist. Though we probably should not count on much regulatory assistance from Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the Republicans at the state level. At the state level, with Kasich at the helm, we may well end up unfortunately looking more like Pennsylvania (very supportive of gas/oil shale mining) than New York (which continues to postpone final decisions on the acceptability of shale-gas mining).
(A-news) Editor’s note: Though this won’t be known until actually drilling begins in this area, some geological experts predict that the main “play” in Athens County and the surrounding area will be for oil rather than “dry” natural gas. Currently, natural gas prices are depressed while oil prices are relatively high. TS