Gas drilling expected to boost economy

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Officials in Belmont County said they believe the recent boom in natural gas drilling in Ohio will undoubtedly benefit the local economy.

In recent years, the gas drilling industry has exploded in Ohio and neighboring states, with companies tapping into the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves beneath the Appalachian states. Methods of extracting larger volumes of the natural gas from these deep underground rock formations have been perfected in the past few years, opening up new door within the industry.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the Belmont County Commissioners, officials said the growing industry is presenting another means for Ohio to take advantage of its natural resources, and the economic impact promises to be significant.

“The oil and gas industry can help Ohio climb out of the recession,” said Commissioner Ginny Favede, citing recent reports supporting that claim. “It has the potential to bring an additional 23,000 jobs, and the economic impact from the spinoff of this industry can be phenomenal.”

Larry Merry, director of the Belmont County Port Authority, said the impact has already been hitting locally. On one project alone, a company recently purchased more than $100,000 worth of rock locally to develop a site where a well is being drilled.

Land owners are also taking advantage of the industry boom. There have been a number of public informational meetings about the sale or leasing of mineral rights in the wake of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom, and there are new oil and gas leasing businesses being established in the region to help property owners with transactions pertaining to companies’ desire to access the natural gas beneath their lands.

Merry said property owners should consult with an expert before moving forward with deals to allow companies to drill on their properties or take any of the valuable resources that lie beneath the surface.

“When it comes to having oil and gas rights, the reality is you are only going to sell it once,” said Merry. “You should get professional help. Don’t be dazzled by the dollars. And my suggestion is you should only lease to a certain depth.

“Overall, I think it’s a positive thing,” said Merry.

In other action Wednesday, the board met in executive session with attorney Richard Myser representing the Belmont County Community Improvement Corporation and Belmont County Auditor Andy Sutak to consider the sale of public property. No action was taken following the executive session.

The board also met in executive session with Sutak, Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter, members of the auditor’s office staff and representatives of the state auditor’s office to discuss confidential matters concerning the county’s post audit.

Also Wednesday, the board:

  • awarded the bid for furnishing two Hot Shot vehicles with meal delivery packages for Belmont Senior Services to Thomas Chrysler Dodge Jeep of St. Clairsville – the only bidder – in the amount of $74,472, based upon the recommendation of the Belmont Senior Services Board of Trustees.
  • granted a request from the Belmont County Fire and Squad Officers Association for the allocation of $10,000 to purchase multi-community fire equipment, benefiting all fire departments in the county. Half of this money will be repaid to the county through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources 2010 Volunteer Fire Assistance grant that has been awarded to the association. This is a 50-50 matching reimbursement grant, officials noted.
  • accepted a proposal from Window Fashions By Beth in the amount of $4,126 for window treatments and sound panels for the new Eastern Division Court Building.

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