Oil and gas industry can be damaging to Tech-Belt Initiative

I’m a meat lover. I also love my veggies. I’m a gardener, but I could never envision myself a butcher.

I will hop in my SUV and go to a well-lit supermarket and pick out a good steak, slap it on my propane grill, then cook it to a slightly bloody perfection, cut it into pieces and devour that steer with a smile on my face.

I’m also a techie. I have, by education and profession, earned the right to refer to myself as such. I am, albeit a little more seasoned than a recent college grad, the type of business professional the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, state and federal government have been spending millions trying to entice to the Mahoning Valley over the past 15 years.

Even the manufacturing sector of the oil- and gas-supply industry needs techies.

In my case, I was born in the Mahoning Valley. Family drew me back to the Valley after years away.

But unless improved zoning practices are developed that balance the residential, recreational and work areas of the techies and the logistics of the Valley’s oil- and gas-field services sector, there will be very few techies signing up to move so close to drilling and disposal activities.

The bad press associated with earthquakes, fires, illegal chemical and brine dumping and pipeline spills — combined with the normal inconvenience of drilling pads located in residential and business areas — is more damaging to the future of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s Tech-Belt Initiative than you, the congressman or I will ever know.

Let’s get to it. Critics of my point of view might be quick to call me a hypocrite. Yes, I use gas, propane, oil, natural gas and a healthy helping of electricity. I just love them all. I patronize the providers of these products with a fair portion of my proceeds as a professional techie.

But I also made a plan to return to the Valley and be part of its tech scene, pay its taxes, raise one of its families, buy one of its homes, etc.

I often receive offers to work elsewhere but have resisted as I watched the Valley scene grow. I wanted to be a part of it.

So just like I don’t want to witness the butchering of my beef, I don’t want to live among the environmental impacts of a poorly planned energy-production strategy in the populated areas of the river valley.

I’m allowed to feel this way. I made an investment in the Valley, as many others have. I want to see it protected.

I feel expressing the techie opinion is important because we still have time to reflect on our long-term goals for the Valley. We have the opportunity to demand that the field-services sector of the oil and gas industry is set up in a way that allows our culture and investment to flourish.

It’s possible, but it will require open dialog, compromise, vision and, undoubtedly, additional cost.

I want to thank The Vindicator editorial staff for the opportunity to publish my candid opinion from a techie’s point of view. It’s an honor to reach so many readers. And now that I have done it, if permitted to continue researching and reporting on the oil and natural-gas industry, I look forward to occasionally peppering future articles with additional opinion.

Oh, yeah, techies often drive little gas-efficient cars and ride bikes and motorcycles to work, so they really like smooth roads as well as a stable and clean environment.

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