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Walter “Buzz” Pishkur, former president of Aqua Ohio and member of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber board of directors, joined a panel of speakers at a chamber luncheon last month to discuss the regulatory and economic experiences of communities where the shale industry has taken hold.
Organizers said the purpose of the event was to educate the community about the facts and benefits of the oil and gas industry.
Pishkur, now the director of water utilities for the city of Arlington, Texas, was the keynote speaker at the luncheon at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Banquet Hall.
He said that regulation and transparency are key as governments work with companies and local residents to develop the industry.
Pishkur said he has been watching the industry since he took over his new post a year ago, and he has been impressed with drilling oversight in the area.
Jim Parajon, another speaker and the Arlington director of community development and planning, said the city requires frequent inspections of drilling sites at various stages of construction and operation, monitoring flowback of fracking wastewater and other factors.
Arlington has a population of 400,000 and is home to major employers such as Six Flags, General Motors and the Texas Rangers baseball team.
“Natural gas and oil is a piece of our economy. It’s not the only piece of our economy,” Pishkur said.
Nonetheless, there are 300 well pads at 56 sites throughout the 99 square miles that Arlington occupies between Dallas and Fort Worth, Parajon said.
Though the Railroad Commission of Texas generally regulates natural-gas pipelines, Arlington may regulate companies when their infrastructure crosses city streets, he said.
“We can regulate how deep the pipeline is and things like that,” he said.
Arlington also signed 52 mineral-rights leases with oil and gas companies on about 6,000 acres of city-owned land. Between lease bonuses and royalty receipts, that’s $144 million going directly to the city since 2008, Parajon said.
“If you have real estate, put it to work,” Parajon told the audience.
Pishkur and Parajon, who described themselves as neither supporters nor opponents of shale drilling, stressed the importance of working with the industry.
“It’s really important, at least from my perspective, that you work with the companies that are involved in this business” as they institute new technologies and operations, Parajon said.
The event came at a time when Youngstown faces another decision about the future of the oil and gas industry in this city.
Supporters of a charter amendment to ban fracking within city limits recently announced an effort to put the question on the May ballot. The effort has failed twice before.
Mayor John A. McNally, kicking off the luncheon, said city council would consider the amendment at a recent meeting.
Once passed by city council, at least 1,126 of the 2,109 signatures collected must be verified by the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
Opponents of the charter amendment have said that, if passed, it would harm business development and potential partnerships with oil and gas companies.