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Local News

July 7, 2014

DRILLING DIVIDE

Fracking boom in Ohio shows profit and perils for New York

Joe Mahoney, a staff writer for The Daily Star, was one of 17 journalists from across the nation who received fellowships from the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources last month to visit places in Ohio, Pennsylvania and western New York where the natural gas industry is having impacts, either through drilling or through waste disposal. This reporting was assisted through that fellowship.

CARROLLTON, OHIO — Keith Burgett and Frank Brothers, both longtime residents of this rural town with vast tracts of farmland and rolling hills in eastern Ohio, have never met each other.

But they are both experiencing the impacts of rapid growth in the local natural gas development industry, though in vastly different ways.

Carrollton is the county seat of Carroll County, which has more Utica Shale gas wells than any other county in the state. Over the past few years, the technology used to harvest that gas has switched from conventional drilling to horizontal hydrofracking, a controversial technique not permitted in New York that is under review by the Cuomo administration in Albany.

The debate over whether New York should proceed with granting permits has been a polarizing one. Industry advocates argue it would stimulate the economy and make the United States less dependent on imported oil while many environmental advocates contend it jeopardizes ground water supplies and threatens to increase the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. 

‘A LOT OF NEW TRACTORS’

Burgett, a 71-year-old veterinarian, operates a 1,200-acre beef cattle farm with his two sons, Phillip and Bryan. For the past several years, he has been profiting from royalties he receives monthly for the mineral rights to the land, sold to Chesapeake Energy, an Oklahoma drilling company that holds more than 190 drilling permits in Carroll County alone.

He said he believes that the natural gas being pumped out of the ground in his county will make the United States more secure, reduce the chances of warfare over energy policy and stimulate the economy in depressed rural areas.

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