For all of its hyperbole and fear- mongering, the furor over fracking in Ohio has produced some decidedly positive results for those rightly concerned about the threats to public health and safety that hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas can pose to the populace.
One of those dividends has been an increasingly responsible commitment by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Drilling to ensure maximum transparency and accountability through detailed information on fracking to the general public.
It has done so most visibly via its increasingly sophisticated website that provides a warehouse of drilling data to users literally at their fingertips.
For example, are you concerned about production activity at the Davidson well operated by Halcon Resources Corp. near Meander Reservoir in North Jackson? No problem. A simple comparative analysis available at oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov will tell you that production there has gushed to new heights this year. In the final quarter of 2013, the well produced 301 barrels of oil and 6,339 cubic feet of natural gas. In the first quarter of 2014, production there had quadrupled with that same well producing 1,206 barrels of oil and 23,170 cubic feet of natural gas.
The website tracks activity at each and every one of the horizontal shale wells that are required to report production in the Utica and Marcellus shale-play regions of eastern Ohio.
Among its many beneficial public-service nuggets of knowledge include information on what chemicals are used in fracking (the fracturing of rock by a pressurized mix to access oil and natural gas) and why, detailed listings of laws and safety regulations governing the industry, rules on drilling in urban landscapes in the state, history of more than 15,000 Ohio wells fracked since 1990 and access to nearly 275,000 Ohio oil and gas well records including completion, permit and production information.
Bowing to the need for openness in its operations, ODNR also includes links for public comments and for requests of public records on all facets of the drilling industry’s operation in the Buckeye State.
A WORTHWHILE EXPANSION
In addition, as The Vindicator reported earlier this week, ODNR will be expanding its interactive oil and gas viewer this year to include more detailed production information and records on violations of its regulations.
“We are really in the preliminary process,” said Mark Bruce, ODNR spokesman. “It is public information, and we feel it is a good addition to what we have.”
Detailed reports on violations and offending companies indeed will be a valuable addition in that they will alert the public to irresponsible operators and may motivate drillers to avoid shameful exposure by demonstrating scrupulous and high-principled practices.
Collectively, the sophisticated and public-minded ODNR website serves as a microcosm of an agency that has demonstrated its commitment to balancing the economic assets of the drilling industry with the potential liabilities of health and safety dangers to 11 million Ohioans. The nonprofit State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations recognized as much in its positive endorsement of the state’s hydraulic fracturing program, calling it “well-managed, professional and meeting its program objectives.”
As a staunch advocate for expanding the public’s right to know, we are heartened by the ODNR’s performance and its commitment to maximum transparency and accountability to state residents most clearly evident in the expansion of its website. Other agencies of state and local governments should follow ODNR’s exemplary public-spirited engagement.