Ohio Environmental Council’s second town hall meeting in Cambridge

Judie Perkowski Dix Communications Published:

Presenting a forum for the public to question city and county officials about their role in the developing shale gas and oil industry, representatives of the Columbus-based Ohio Environmental Council welcomed approximately 30 people to the event at the Cambridge Area YMCA Wednesday evening.

Jack Shaner, deputy director and senior director of OEC Legislative and Public Affairs, and Melanie Houston, director of OEC Water Policy and Environmental Health, also shared information about how to research and comment on state laws, rules and regulations in reference to the gas and oil industry.

Panel members were Jeff Deeks, fire chief for the Cambridge Fire Department, who answered questions from the audience about fire prevention and safety at well sites; and Del George, Guernsey County engineer, answered questions about drilling companies’ responsibilities regarding road use in Guernsey County.

Deeks said that the majority of firefighters have received training regarding gas and oil fires of all kinds and that the two-day event was paid for by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.

“The fire department doesn’t have all the fancy equipment, but we do our best. We have also joined the Buckeye STEPS Program,” said Deeks. “Public safety is our number one concern.”

The Buckeye STEPS (Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety) program promotes safety, health and environmental improvement in the exploration and production of oil and gas. The organization meets monthly at the Willett Pratt Training Center.

Answering questions about chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, Deeks said Senate Bill 315 requires a MSDS, a material safety data sheet listing all chemicals used at a drill site, and the sheet must be posted at the site.

In regards to how the department would handle an emergency at a drill site, he said the department works with several agencies and other fire departments depending on the situation. Depending on the severity of a gas and oil fire, “the Federal Emergency Management Administration would be involved.”

Del George explained how gas and oil companies are legally bound to maintain and repair damage to county and township roads and bridges that provide access to shale development areas.

“It all comes down to a matter of safety,” said George. “If the road is not safe, I will close it down. We have a number of Road Use Management Agreements. We recommend the driller drive the roads with us to view the road(s) they plan to use for access to their drill site, to actually see where problems could arise ... All drilling companies, which include companies who provide a service to the drilling company, for example, someone who provides water, must also sign a RUMA.”

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