Kasich says Marcellus Shale could be ‘godsend’ for OhioWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Gov.-elect John Kasich on Dec. 30 said natural gas drilling in a geological formation that stretches into Ohio could boost the state’s economy by attracting businesses and helping to put skilled workers back on the job.
If large deposits of natural gas were found by drilling in the Marcellus Shale, Ohio could see big opportunities, Kasich said at a news conference to announce his picks to lead two state agencies.
“There’s real potential there to help a lot of people who have been in deep economic trouble for a long time,” Kasich told reporters. “If there in fact is gas, it will be cheap. Businesses, most likely, who are looking for energy sources may want to locate there — that’s not directly related to drilling, but it’s the offshoot of it.”
The gas riches of the vast Marcellus Shale — which underlies Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and part of Ohio– have attracted a rush of drillers to the region in the last couple of years.
“If we can get that Marcellus Shale and if it can yield a significant amount of gas — oh, it will be a godsend for our state,” Kasich said. “But you got to drill before you know.”
In Pennsylvania, the drilling frenzy is credited with enriching landowners and pumping new life into trucking companies, short-line railroads, quarries and steel-pipe makers as well as the restaurants and hotels hosting out-of-state drilling crews.
Kasich said he wanted to see whether Ohio and Pennsylvania officials could work together to take advantage of the deposits they have.
Noting drilling efforts in the nearby states, Kasich said, “We need to be in a position of where we can develop technologies to help people to drill, take advantage of these deposits, so you have the ability to have small manufacturing companies start to crop up.”
He said this would be a focus of his administration. He said he planned to meet soon with the CEO of the Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., a leading U.S. producer of natural gas that has “big plans here in the state of Ohio.”
Chesapeake’s vice president of corporate development, Scott Rotruck, agreed with Kasich’s characterization.
The company leases land in Ohio and has drilled a few wells, Rotruck said. While it’s too early to say what the results are, the company is optimistic about gas exploration in the state, he said.
Chesapeake bills itself on its website as “the second-largest producer of natural gas, a Top 20 producer of oil and natural gas liquids and the most active driller of new wells” in the United States. It has been a major force behind the development of the Marcellus Shale, especially in Pennsylvania.
Kasich said he expected former business executive David Mustine to play a key role in exploring how Ohio would be impacted by the exploration of the Marcellus Shale.
The incoming governor Dec. 30 picked Mustine to lead the state Department of Natural Resources. Mustine spent the last two years as a director of an oil and gas service business based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He previously was a senior vice president at Columbus-based American Electric Power.
Kasich made light of Mustine’s experience in the oil and gas industry and welcomed his background as an ordained minister.
“If we want to find Marcellus Shale, we’ll send him over there and have him pray for discovery,” Kasich joked.
Kasich also named Scott Nally to lead the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Nally is an assistant commissioner with Indiana’s environmental management department.
The two cabinet appointments have members of at least one environmental advocacy group holding their breaths.
“We are quite guarded here in our expectations,” said Jack Shaner, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Council.
Shaner said the group was unfamiliar with the two incoming directors and was learning more about them.
Kasich said the two men will focus on job creation — but not at the expense of the environment.
Shaner cautioned Kasich’s team to be responsible about natural gas drilling.
“The new administration’s zeal to develop new energy sources should not displace the need to be careful and displace people’s water supply,” he said.
Using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, drillers are unlocking vast deposits in the formation. However, the use of fracking — in which millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals are injected into each well to break apart the shale and release trapped gas — has raised pollution concerns.
Terry Englander, a geoscience professor at Pennsylvania State University and Gary Lash, a geology professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, estimated in early 2008 that the Marcellus might contain more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. They estimated that 10 percent might be recoverable using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
Critics say fracking could poison water supplies, while the natural-gas industry says it’s been used safely for decades.
A June 2010 article by Vanity Fair magazine, “A Colossal Fracking Mess,” focused on the affects of fracking to Dimock, Pennsylvania, population 1,400 and environmental concerns related to the Delaware River and surrounding watershed.
Ann Sanner of The Associated Press contributed to this report.