Beacon Journal staff
Drilling for natural gas will be the subject of public meetings Jan. 20 and Jan. 27 in Stark County.
The sessions will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at Oakwood Middle School, 2300 Schneider St. NE, Plain Township.
The first session will include a panel discussion with speakers who support and those who oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as the best way to extract natural gas.
A question-and-answer period moderated by WHBC radio host Ron Ponder will follow.
The Jan. 27 meeting will involve speakers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and will look at Ohio drilling rules and regulatory issues.
The January meetings were organized after competing meetings on fracking in mid-December were canceled.
One meeting was organized by Plain Township Trustee Louis Giavasis and the second was sponsored by Kirk Schuring, now a state representative.
Giavasis has suggested that Plain Township adopt a moratorium on drilling in order to safeguard drinking water, but no action has been taken on that proposal.
Drillers are seeking leases in eastern Ohio to go after natural gas in the Marcellus shale 5,000 feet below the surface and in the deeper Utica shale.
Intense interest in the Marcellus shale began in 2008 in Pennsylvania. It is also found under New York, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio.
Fracking requires injecting large volumes of fresh water and sand into the rocks, fracturing them and freeing the gas. Small amounts of toxic chemicals might be added to make it easier to extract more gas.
Some of the water returns from the bottom of the well as a briny, chemical- and metal-laden mixture. It might contain low levels of radiation.
The wastewater is stored in open pits until it is trucked to treatment plants or injection wells.
The industry says fracking has been used safely since the late 1940s, and that 90 percent of today's wells require the technique. Experts say it is unlikely that fracking contributes to contaminated groundwater near the surface.
Opponents cite numerous cases of improperly constructed wells, sloppy operations and other problems that have contaminated drinking water.