Industry, opponents react

Drillers and manufacturers tied to the oil and gas industry were scrambling to review Friday’s reports that hydraulic fracturing caused seismic activity in Poland last month.

The effects the study and new Ohio restrictions on drilling within close proximity of known fault lines will have on the industry is not yet known, but until then, an official with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, or OOGA, on Friday urged “an abundance of caution and perspective when evaluating the incident.”

Thomas E. Stewart, executive vice president of OOGA, characterized the series of quakes locally as a “rare and isolated event that should not cast doubt about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, a process that has been conducted on more than one million oil and gas wells in the U.S., including 80,000 in Ohio, since the 1950s.”

Stewart said he understands the public’s concern, but pointed out the economic benefits the industry has brought to Ohio, and urged it should not curtail development.

“We will thoroughly review the recommendations provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, but will only support measures based on sound, scientific principles and practicality,” Stewart said.

Tom Humphries, president and CEO of the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber, likewise was stressing the economic growth.

“The Chamber continues to support shale development in eastern Ohio and the job creation and investment that have been coming to the Valley, especially through the oil and gas industry’s supply chain,” Humphries said. “We appreciate and support the new regulations being set in place today by ODNR to prevent future drilling near fault lines. We want our economy to grow through shale development with a priority on safety to our people and our environment,”

The results of the study came the same day as the ribbon was cut on a new Evets Oil & Gas Construction Services pipe fabrication plant in Hubbard. The plant, in the works for about a year, brought 45 new hires and about a $4 million investment.

Rex Ferry, company CEO and owner, on Friday was not overreacting at the report’s release.

Ferry noted the difficulty of predicting geologic formations thousands of feet below ground, but said he believes precision will improve with technological advances. For now, drilling will stay away from known fault lines.

“If they know there’s a fault down there, who wants the potential liability?” Ferry asked. “More educated drilling is going to have to go on, rather than just poking and hoping.”

Anti-frac groups also said they were spending time reviewing and digesting the information.

“This is massive because there have not been many cases yet where fracking was linked to earthquakes. It’s good to know that people out there are listening and taking notice,” said Jane Spies of FrackFree Mahoning Valley.

A prepared statement from Hilcorp Energy, the company working in the area where the quakes occurred last month, said, likewise, the company is studying the information.

“While we take the time necessary for understanding how these conditions impact Ohio operations, we remain fully committed to public safety and acting in a manner consistent with being a good corporate citizen in the communities where we operate.”