SALEM, Ohio — The shale boom is here in eastern Ohio, and it’s not hard to figure out the boom isn’t going away anytime soon.
However, if communities had to do it over, would they have planned more for what the future holds?
Joe Campbell, a rural sociologist and research associate with the Social Responsibility Initiative in Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said being proactive, establishing communication lines and gathering information about the industry and its impacts have helped the shale industry develop.
As part of his research, Campbell talked to citizens and conducted research in Jefferson County.
Campbell wanted to see how a community adapts to rapid change brought on by the oil and gas industry.
Campbell found that Jefferson County’s resilience to change was based in part on the collaborative management that had been built among leading elected officials, public administrators and private sector leaders.
He said these relationships were formed among the government and private sector when the steel industry declined in Jefferson County to make the best out of a bad situation. When the shale boom hit, this existing relationship “fostered a cooperative environment” so the shale boom could grow.
“The framework had already been laid in Jefferson County, so it meant a better relationship between all levels in the county,” said Campbell.
In 2012, the county commissioners formed a 15-member Jefferson County Oil and Gas Committee that included representation from a broad range of sectors.
“So when the shale boom came, they knew who to contact and how to handle shale issues,” he said.
In Carroll County
Bill Newell, Carroll County’s Farm Bureau president, said if officials in Carroll County had a crystal ball, they might have planned a bypass or four-lane highway around Carrollton and better roads in general. He said another development that could have been made is sewer and water development.
Newell said the development is something citizens and officials didn’t see coming, but they’ve welcomed it even if it has happened at lightning speed.
“Most know it is good for the area. They know it has increased the tax base. We needed the financial boost and it has helped us in most areas tremendously,” Newell said.
Cooperation is key
He thinks Carroll County has adapted by working together at the government level and the private sector, as the shale industry has changed over the past couple of years.
“The county commissioners have done a very good job. They have stayed up with the issues and handled what needed to be handled,” said Newell.
Housing and roads
Newell said two new hotels are under construction so the housing situation in Carroll County is improving. However, current rent prices have hurt some citizens, who have been pressed even more to make it financially.
Newell praised the township officials handling the road situation. He said they have stayed on top of the road conditions in the wake of traffic increases, and have continued to work with the companies as the township roads are used to haul equipment and truck fluids to and from the well sites.
Newell said the oil and gas companies improved roads before the drilling began, but there is always ongoing concern about who will take care of them once the drilling is done.
Newell added there has been a huge increase in truck traffic, but motorists have dealt with it the best they could and most know that, in the end, it will benefit the community.
Newell said he hasn’t heard too many complaints about the boom’s impact on farming and doesn’t know if they could have planned any differently for what it has meant for producers.
He said it has meant some different tactics when it comes to tilling fields, but it hasn’t meant less fields tilled.
There are more pipelines crossing fields, and that has meant construction for farmers to deal with as it went along.
Newell said in some places it has meant fences were taken down or rerouted, and in other areas it has meant the construction of a temporary fence.
Weak public relations
The one area the community has been disappointed with is the disappearance of the companies in the public eye.
Newell said he wouldn’t name companies but the public has noted that there are no public appearances and it is difficult to talk to someone if there is a problem with a lease or construction.
He did note one company that has made a local stake is Rex Energy. They have an office in downtown Carrollton and their doors are open to landowners with issues.