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Ohio Utica Shale

Drillers working to increase collaboration with communities

By Bob Downing Published: December 31, 2012

From the Associated Press:

Some gas drilling companies that spent years fighting, threatening and suing reluctant communities took a new tack in 2012: collaboration.

Some drillers in Pennsylvania have hired local residents to act as liaisons and ramped up communication efforts, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Friday. Most municipal officials the newspaper interviewed now give drillers credit for improving communication and responding quickly when problems arise.

For example, XTO Energy — an Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary — set up a community advisory board in Butler County, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh.

"XTO (Energy) has been great to work with," said Lois Rankin, a supervisor in Jefferson. "Each and every time there's been an issue ... they've come through and complied and fixed it."

That kind of effort was largely missing in the early years of shale gas development in Pennsylvania, said Gregory Kallenberg, a filmmaker who toured the state this year for a program Shell Oil Co. sponsored.

"They were coming into the area ... without the attention they should give to communication and community relations that they seem to have now," Kallenberg said by phone from his office in Louisiana.

A boom in drilling has taken place in parts of the Marcellus Shale, which lies under Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The procedure called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has made it possible to tap into deep reserves of oil and gas. But fracking has raised concerns about pollution, since large volumes of water, along with sand and hazardous chemicals, are injected underground to break rock apart and free the oil and gas.

The industry and many federal and state officials say the practice is safe when done properly, but environmental groups and some scientists say there hasn't been enough research on possible pollution issues.

Some of the impetus to change comes from within the industry.

In a strategy paper on combatting the anti-fracking movement, analyst Jonathan Wood of Control Risks, a global consulting company, advised drillers to acknowledge that communities have legitimate grievances, in order to begin to repair a "crippling trust deficit."

Wood advised, among other things, openness, voluntary disclosure and "meaningful consultations" with communities, rather than "didactic information sessions to market the presumed benefits of drilling."

Range Resources, a driller based in Fort Worth, Texas, has been at the center of several heated disputes.

"We're probably more active listeners now, so we're probably better able to hone in on what local governments need from us," said Jim Cannon, whose job at Range focuses on local government relations. "A couple years ago, maybe we weren't as sensitive to it. ... Now we recognize how vital it really is."

Some officials note that drilling companies vary widely in how they do business.

"We have several energy companies that we work with and it's amazing how different they are," said Daniel L. Roupp, supervisor and road master in Cogan House, Lycoming County. "Some are very proactive ... and some are reactive. Then once we start screaming at them, they get around to repairing what they damaged."

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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.