A debate over drilling under Mill Creek Park in Mahoning County demonstrates one of many disconnects between fact and fiction in the hydraulic fracturing world.
Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program Executive Director Rhonda Reda facilitated a drilling seminar last week at Fellows Riverside Gardens in the park. The seminar was designed to educate people concerned about the Metroparks board leasing more park mineral rights to oil and natural gas companies.
Park users are concerned about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. This is the method of blasting shale rock with a fine solution of water, sand and trace chemicals to release oil and gas trapped deep beneath the surface. In other parts of the country residents have tried to blame fracking for poor water quality, but no contamination has been proven.
The fact revealed during the seminar is that more than 40 drilling operations are already extracting minerals from beneath Mill Creek Park. All were hydraulically fractured. Yet, nary a soul has even noticed because the drilling operations have left no environmental footprint on park land.
The fiction, therefore, is that a drilling operation would disturb, even temporarily, pristine meadows, hiking trails, bodies of water and other Mill Creek Park treasures.
All 40-some drills were erected off parkland, then horizontally drilled to release the minerals under the surface.
Reda's seminar should provide comfort to those leasing mineral rights, whether under public property or their own. The income from the rights and royalties can be used to enhance and increase ways the park serves the community.
Tapping the Utica Shale for what many believe contains a decades-long supply of oil and gas is going to become common in the coming years. So, too, will objections from people concerned about sensitive, publicly owned areas.
As this plays out, it's important to separate fact and fiction.