Mayors, city managers and county commissioners in 17 eastern Ohio Appalachian counties — from Trumbull, the farthest northeastern county, to Washington in the southeast on the banks of the Ohio River — were asked to complete a survey conducted by the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs about local impact of shale activity focusing on population, housing, public safety, infrastructure, environment, local employment area business activity and economic development.
More than 500 surveys were distributed in the summer of 2013. Findings in the report include which shale developments are being reported across the 17 surveyed counties; the influence shale development has had on the population and how it has impacted local housing and public safety; how shale activities have impacted local infrastructure and the environment; how has it altered employment of area residents and its influence on the local economy.
“Shale development is having a major impact on the communities of eastern Ohio,” said Scott Miller, director of the school’s Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment (CE3). “No one knows better the full effect of this industry on local communities than the target of this survey — the elected officials charged with serving this region: its mayors, county commissioners, township trustees and city managers. The results of this survey will provide a baseline for further analysis and community discussions for years to come.”
Results of the survey were analyzed by the type of shale development activity reported to be taking place: Horizontal drilling, injection well construction, pipeline construction, shale supply yards and other staging areas, worker camps, refinery development, and no activity at all.
Here is a sampling of the survey results.
• According to the majority of local officials, the impact of shale activity has generally been positive. Across all local officials, 61.4 percent reported positive impacts; 25.7 percent reported shale had resulted in no change to their service area; and only 7.8 percent indicated that the impact had been negative.
• Population, housing and public safety: Counties with shale activity indicated a population increase from 42.9 percent (from horizontal drilling and injection well construction) to 85.7 percent of those with refinery development. In counties without shale activity, there was still a 10 percent increase.
• Property /land costs have been reported on the rise with and without ongoing shale activity, with 58 percent to 90 percent of respondents reporting moderate or significant increases. More than a third of respondents in counties with no activity report shale development has led to increases in property and land costs in their area. The highest percentage of respondents (90 per cent)  said shale development has increased housing rental costs (some doubled or even tripled).
• Public Safety: Across all respondents, only a small percentage indicated crimes have increased due to shale development. Drug related, 12.4. percent; alcohol-related 13.3 percent; assaults, 6.2 percent; property theft, 11.2. percent and prostitution, 2.8 percent.
• Counties with ongoing shale activity, the percentage of respondents indicating an increase in other retail activities ranged from 65;.7 percent (horizontal drilling) to 90.5 percent ( because of refinery development). In counties with no shale activity, 18.4 percent of respondents reported an increase in other retail activity  due to shale development.
Hotel construction: More than a quarter, 27.5 percent, of respondents reported there has been an increase in hotel construction due to shale activity. The majority of respondents (65.2 percent) indicated that no change has occurred in hotel construction.
• Across all officials, only 35.6 percent indicated local tax revenues had increased due to shale activity. However, considerable differences were seen  between the types of local officials. Nearly half (43.1 percent) of city managers and mayors reported an increase in tax revenue. The majority (87.5 percent) of county commissioners reported an increase in tax revenues, while only 22.2 of township trustees indicted shale development had increased tax revenues.
Local tax revenue is the only economic survey item where major differences were seen among local officials.
For more information about several other categories and results of the study, go to Ohio University’s Voinovich School Report on Impact of Local Shale Activity website.