The Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs on Monday released the primary findings from its 2013 Ohio Shale Development Community Impact Survey, which it mailed at the end of July 2013 to local officials in the following 17 eastern Ohio counties: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe, Muskingum, Noble, Portage, Stark, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Washington (See our Feb 18, 2014, blog post for more information). Of the 540 surveys mailed, a total of 227 responses were received (42 percent). Thirty-six respondents were excluded from analysis due to incomplete responses. Respondents included 66 mayors and city managers (34.6 percent); 16 county commissioners (8.4 percent) and 109 township trustees (57.1 percent). While the impacts of shale development are being felt across eastern Ohio, it is "particularly acute in counties where respondents feel refineries or horizontal well drilling is taking place," especially with regard to infrastructure. Respondents reported very little impact on public safety, but reported that some of the most significant impacts are those related to "increases in traffic volumes and the need for public road maintenance." A copy of the survey as it was distributed is available here.
According to the survey's findings, the majority of local officials (61.4 percent) reported that the impact of shale activity has "generally been positive," while 25.7 percent reported no change to their service area, and only 7.8 indicated that the overall impact has been negative. The majority of respondents reported that property and land costs have increased in counties with shale activity. This increase was attributed to: injection well construction (54.8 percent), horizontal shale well drilling (63.2 percent), pipeline construction (68 percent), worker camps (75 percent) and supply yards/staging areas (77.3 percent).
Nearly two-thirds or more of respondents indicated that rental housing costs have increased due to the impact of shale development, with 90 percent attributing it to refinery development, followed by supply yards and staging areas (86.2 percent). Only a small percentage of respondents indicated that certain crimes have increased due to shale development activity: alcohol-related offenses (13.3 percent), drug-related offenses (12.4 percent), property theft (11.2 percent), assaults (6.2 percent) and prostitution (2.8 percent).
Between 61 and 95 percent of all respondents indicated a need for public road maintenance as a result of ongoing shale development activities, while between 52.4 and 66.7 percent of all respondents reported an increased need for bridge maintenance and inspection. More than half of the surveyed county commissioners and township trustees (61.4 percent) indicated that Road Use Maintenance Agreements (RUMA) had been signed in their service area.
Although only 35.6 percent of respondents indicated that local tax revenues have increased as a result of shale development, "considerable differences were seen between the types of local officials." A large majority of county commissioners (87.5 percent) reported an increase in tax revenue, while 43.1 percent of city managers and mayors reported such an increase, and 22.2 percent of township trustees. "Local tax revenue is the only economic survey item where major differences were seen among the local official positions."
The surveyors clarified that the opinion survey and its findings are "not meant to draw causal relationships," and are instead a "baseline analysis and a snapshot in time." In the future, the group plans to conduct similar studies and track "how attitudes and opinions may vary as Ohio's shale play matures."