Drilling inspectors needed: Ohio looks to hire as shale play spreads to more counties

By Alison Grant, The Plain Dealer

Ohio_frackingOhio expects to triple the number of its oil and gas field inspectors, as horizontal drilling and fracking of shale formations intensifies and moves west across the state.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources wants to have 90 inspectors in the field by early next year, up from more than 30 today, spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans said.

State regulators are scrambling to keep up with Ohio’s latest energy push. They inspected 18 percent of the state’s 64,481 operating wells in 2011, leaving more than 50,000 wells unchecked.

“It’s almost a daunting task, but you gotta do the best you can,” said Gene Chini, district supervisor of the north region of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management.

Ohio has inspected a smaller share of its wells since 2009 than its neighbor in the shale boom, Pennsylvania. Ohio’s inspections also lagged those in three other big oil- and gas-producing states — Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma, though funding shortfalls in Oklahoma have cut inspection rates almost in half in recent years.

By Kari Matsko’s reckoning, hundreds of thousands of Ohio oil and gas wells go without annual inspections. Matsko, director of the People’s Oil and Gas Collaborative, a Lake County grassroots group, said the state has more than 275,000 wells when adding in those that are plugged or abandoned.

Some of them pose contamination danger, she said, pointing to a finding by federal investigators that natural gas in two residential water wells in Medina could have migrated from an abandoned gas well.

“Wells require a lifetime of care and feeding,” said Matsko. “They never go away.”

But others contend the focus most keenly belongs on wells under construction. Meanwhile, many existing wells are scant producers.

“Keep in mind that many of the 64,000 wells are classified as marginal wells that may produce less than 10 barrels of oil a year,” said Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, which does public outreach for the industry. “If you took those out of there, I think you would look at a very high rate of visits (inspections) for those that are producing significant volume.”

James Zehringer, ODNR director, said the agency has begun hiring and training additional inspectors to insure that shale wells are correctly built and inspected.

Natural gas and oil reserves in Ohio’s Utica shale formations have attracted a rush of major companies leasing rights to drill horizontal wells and then fracture, or “frack,” the rock to release the gas and oil. Sixteen horizontal wells have been drilled and completed; nine so far are in production.

Zehringer said money from permit fees for shale exploration and drilling will pay for new workers to help not only with inspections but also enforcement and administrative work.

“A strong regulatory staff at ODNR will enable inspectors to be present at every critical stage of well construction, insuring these sophisticated structures are built in a manner that protects both people and the ecosystem,” Zehringer said in a statement late Tuesday.

Chini, based in Uniontown in Summit County, said inspectors monitor new wells at critical points in their construction. They’re on site when the “conductor pipe” is installed in glacial drift or other loose surface material to keep gravelly layers from washing away and destabilizing the drilling rig.

They police installation of the “surface casing” that is cemented in place and protects groundwater. When available, they also monitor installation of the “production casing” that carries oil and gas out of the ground. And they monitor “frack jobs,” when water under intense pressure is forced into well bores to fracture the shale.

If there is a violation, they continue to visit a well until it’s corrected, Hetzel-Evans said.

Inspectors also check wells when they close and the well site is graded and reseeded.

The shale push has also turned a spotlight on some of Ohio’s old wells.

Landowners are asking inspectors to check wells that may have lapsed out of production. Property owners hope that happens because then they might be freed from old leases and able to negotiate new contracts that pay more per acre and have fatter production royalties.

“With the advent of this shale gas, the Utica play, we’re getting a lot of calls,” Chini said.

Lions Club eye programs help needy see a better future

AUBURN CA – For nearly 100 years, the Lions Clubs International has worked on projects designed to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eyecare for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Closer to home, its program for helping needy people in obtaining prescription eyeglasses plays a low-key role in helping give many the gift of better sight during tough economic times for some.

Individual clubs have their own programs and some are seeing an increase in need as jobless numbers have swelled while other clubs are not.

The Auburn 49er Lions club averaged 18 referrals a year in 2009 and 2010 but that increased to 25 in 2011, said eyeglasses coordinator Kelly Post. This month, there have been seven calls for glasses.

Post said that a number of reasons could be responsible for the increase. Until two years ago, Medi-Cal’s welfare medical program paid for eye exams and glasses. Now it pays for just the eye exams, she said.

Some of the calls could be attributed to an increase in word of mouth among people needing eyeglass assistance. Others are coming because of referrals from groups assisting the poor like Hope, Help and Healing and The Gathering Inn, Post said.

“More people are homeless, more are out of a job,” Post said. “And there are more parolees.”

At the Loomis Lions Club, Vision Assistance Chair

 

No spike in Loomis

Jack Morris said the group has handled four aid requests since July, with one of the callers finding another way to replace their broken frames.

In Auburn, the Host Lions group had fielded six requests since the end of December – which is depleting the limited amount of referrals that the Lions can send to an optometrist, said eyeglass chairman Dennis Lloyd. The group has the ability to handle about 20 referrals a year, he said.

Dr. Mark Starr, county Health & Human Services deputy director, said Placer has not had an eyeglass program for the needy but will steer them in the direction of the Lions on an informal basis. The county will provide emergency medical eyecare but doesn’t provide eyeware, Starr said.

Lloyd said the number of requests seemed to be linked to an increase in referrals from the county.

“We can handle a limited number of people but we’re not part of the welfare system,” Lloyd said.

Morris said that many Loomis Club members felt a worsening economy and lack of jobs would result in a substantial increase in requests for vision assistance. But there has been no spike in requests. The Loomis Lions normally handle three or four a year, he said.

One of the recent requests had been forwarded by another Lions Club and another by a welfare-related organization, Morris said.

Morris said that different communities have different rates of awareness on the Lions vision program and that could have something to do with a lack of increased demand.

“I think there are many needy persons but I’m thinking they have other ways – paying for them themselves or with insurance, for instance,” Morris said.

He added that the granting of funds for an exam and new glasses – which averaged $190 last year – is not automatic. The club needs to confirm the person’s identification and then move forward on an eye exam. If the optometrist says glasses are required, Morris can authorize the purchase.

“After that, there are no further requirements – they don’t need to come and talk to the club,” Morris said. “But most of them find a way to send us a card.”

The Lions have gained worldwide recognition for their work to improve sight and prevent blindness. That work includes recycling eyeglasses, supporting Lions Eye Banks that provide eye tissue for sight-saving surgeries, and screening the vision of hundreds of thousands of people every year.

The effort goes back to 1925, when Helen Keller called on the Lions organization to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

“It’s a very rewarding thing and we Lions are proud of it,” Morris said.

Lexington ministry helps former adult entertainers find their way to better lives

By Karla Ward
Kim Paschall’s life as a prostitute was filled with horrors.”I’ve been pistol whipped. I’ve been thrown out of a moving car. I’ve been robbed. I’ve been raped. I’ve disappeared for two days and no one on the earth knew I was gone,” she said.Paschall said her pimp — also the father of her 2-year-old son — would “spit on me, would leave me places with no food, no money, no car. “He made me crave his attention and his love,” she said.
That was everyday life for Paschall, 28, until July 11, when she moved from Dallas to the Refuge for Women, a 50-acre farm in Central Kentucky that helps women find their way out of careers as strippers, prostitutes, escorts or working in the porn industry. The Refuge, which has been open for a year and a half, provides free room and board.Refuge founder Ked Frank has several success stories to tell, including that of a former strip club dancer from inner city Detroit who now works full-time at the Toyota plant in Georgetown.
There’s a former prostitute from Toledo, Ohio, who is now working with an organization that helps other young women in similar circumstances. And a former stripper from Indiana who went to the Refuge for Women straight from jail is on track to regain full custody of the children she lost and is working two jobs, neither in the adult entertainment industry.
The faith-based non-profit uses what it calls a “mentoring approach” to help the women learn life skills, deal with past traumas, overcome financial concerns and develop a plan for a new life. But underlying all that are the organization’s spiritual values.”The foundation of what we’ve built this ministry on is faith,” Frank said. Finding RefugeFrank said he unknowingly became prepared to form the Refuge for Women during the three years he and his wife spent working at an Ohio facility called The Refuge, which is for men struggling with substance abuse and other issues.
The couple previously had lived in Lexington from 2000 to 2003, and they moved back in 2006, when Frank took a job as pastoral care minister at Southland Christian Church. While working there, he learned about a local ministry in which women regularly take meals to the dancers at area strip clubs as an expression of God’s love for them.”I had never heard of anything like that before,” Frank said. “They started talking about a next step for girls that wanted to get out.”Then, Frank said, his best friend bought a 50-acre farm and “made the mistake of telling me one day that it had an old farmhouse.
“So he formed a non-profit organization, started raising money, and gutted and renovated the five-bedroom house. The location of the home is a closely kept secret because of concerns about the women’s safety. Meetings with outsiders are arranged at the organization’s offices on Waller Avenue.The farmhouse has room for eight women, but Frank wants to expand the organization’s capacity to help others.”There’s a hope in my heart that what we’re doing is just kind of getting started,” he said.Paschall said she’s just getting started in her own way.
“I’ve looked back,” she admitted. “I do have that rebellion in me. I do.”She said she feels some guilt about having lured other young women into the world of prostitution.”I ultimately feel responsible,” she said, “but I can’t dwell on it, because I know God’s going to bring redemption to it.”She said she’s already starting to see good results from her decision to leave her former life behind.She said one of the women she influenced to become a prostitute is considering coming to the Refuge, too.She is working on a business plan for a café she hopes to open some day. And Paschall said she has developed a close bond with the others at the farmhouse.
“We’re not used to that family closeness,” she said. “The Refuge becomes that family for us.”Making a changeWhile most of the women in the program are former strippers, Frank said escorts, prostitutes and workers in the porn industry have been through the program.The Refuge has served 25 women, including seven now in residence. The women have come from 10 states.The Refuge takes referrals from all over the country, having formed partnerships with 49 other organizations across the nation that are reaching out to women working in strip clubs.
“There’s not a lot of other places in the country that are doing this kind of work for this population of people,” he said of the residential nature of the program. Women at the Refuge stay at least three months, but they can stay for up to a year if they wish. The women must attend church weekly.”One of the first things we try to offer the ladies is a place to find some rest,” Frank said, noting that many come to the house exhausted from stress, non-stop working and a lifestyle of late nights, drinking and drugs.Many women at the Refuge had chemical dependency issues. Frank said they must go through detoxification before they arrive.After 90 days at the Refuge, the women are expected to begin working part-time jobs that will help them begin exploring new kinds of employment.
Frank says a local Christian-run temporary service helps provide those opportunities for the women, many of whom have criminal records.”It does help to have relationships with people that want to help,” Frank said.There is no fee to the women for the services they receive.Many of the women have left behind children to be cared for by others while they work to put their lives back together, although the Refuge does have some children staying there from time to time. Frank said one woman recently gave birth to a boy, who is now staying at the Refuge with her and a 4-year-old sibling. Another woman is pregnant and will deliver her baby soon.Paschall’s little boy is staying with a host family.
“Most of these girls, their biggest motivator for getting help is their kids,” Frank said. The organization has nine staff members, three of whom are full-time, who help facilitate group activities, hold Bible studies and help the women develop life skills.Frank said many people do not realize the devastation wreaked on the lives of women who get involved in such work.”People think they’re making all this money, they’re there by choice, it’s all in good fun,” Frank said.
“They have no idea the trauma that these girls suffer.”A whole new lifeJen Lasko of Uniontown, Ohio, said the Refuge “completely and totally saved my life.”Lasko grew up in a stable home, where her father was a fire chief. She was a cheerleader in high school, participated in 4-H, and enjoyed riding and showing horses.She said her journey into the adult entertainment industry began when she was 18 and dropped out of high school to be with an older boyfriend.”I started dancing at a topless club to pay the bills” while attending cosmetology school, she said, adding that the glittering outfits she wore “made me feel beautiful and powerful.
“But soon, Lasko, now 34, said a regular customer introduced her to a fully nude club.Over the years, she said, she had relationships with men who beat and raped her, she struggled with drugs and alcohol, and she attempted suicide twice.”Just being in the clubs, there’s so much drugs and violence,” Lasko said. “To get up there and do what you have to do in a sound mind, I wouldn’t have been able to do it sober. Sex had no value to me.”She said she might have been beaten black and blue at home, but when she was onstage she “felt almost powerful over men, no longer being the one controlled.”While Lasko stopped working at strip clubs some time ago and went through a detox program, she said she still carried the emotional baggage with her.”Even after being sober I had an emptiness inside me,” she said.
“I didn’t know I could ask God to forgive me. I didn’t know how to pray.”It doesn’t heal you when you walk out those doors.”With the help of her sister, she found the Refuge, and, Lasko said, a new hope.She came to the Refuge last summer and was baptized Oct. 2. When she leaves next year, she said she wants to start a ministry of her own, reaching out to women working in the clubs.”Now I have such a relationship with Christ,” she said. “It’s a whole new life. … Now I can look in the mirror and look at myself and be proud of the person I am.”

Retrenching After Earnings Decline With help From Portage Lakes Career Center, a technical school in Uniontown

By CLARE ANSBERRY

Retrenching After Earnings DeclineGroundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2010, isn’t a day that Tanya Ross-Lane of Akron, Ohio, wants to relive.

After 13 years helping workers at Diebold Inc., a maker of ATMs and security systems, update their job skills through training programs, she was laid off from her job, which paid $55,000 a year.

At the time, her husband, Michael Lane, also was unemployed, having lost his job with a home contractor, where he was earning $15 to $20 an hour pouring concrete and installing cabinets and floors. The couple sold her 10-year-old Saab, kept their 2003 Jeep, and worked out a lower interest rate on their mortgage. “We keep things modest. We don’t go out much. We cut off the lights and don’t buy steak,” Mr. Lane said.

Ms. Ross-Lane, 54 years old, took a six-week job with the Census Bureau. She also joined a local church’s Community Job Club to keep her spirits up and network. Through Diebold connections, she learned of an opening: the Portage Lakes Career Center, a technical school in Uniontown, Ohio, needed a Human Resource Development Coordinator to design classes to help workers update skills. Ms. Ross-Lane started Nov. 1, 2010, earning $40,000 a year.

But she still goes to Job Club meetings. “So many people who lost jobs have an identity crisis. They don’t know what to do,” she said. “I want to give back and help other people improve their interview skills, coach them on careers and offer encouragement.”

In May 2010, Mr. Lane, 58, landed work through a temporary agency, earning $9.50 an hour with a window-installation company. At first, business was good. Last year, when homeowners were receiving tax credits for new energy-efficient windows, he was working 70 hours a week. The company promised full-time employment after 120 days, but 16 months in, Mr. Lane is still a temp—now working 40 hours a week.

Prospects aren’t great: The company has a hiring freeze. One coworker with a 22-year tenure is making $12 an hour. Still, Mr. Lane would like the security and benefits of being a company employee. “It’s clean and the work is not extremely hard,” he said. “I could be working at a lot worse places.”

Crosby Lions, Leos organize Rebuilding Together Houston project

By STEPHEN THOMAS

Crosby Lions, Leos organize Rebuilding Together Houston projectEvery time that Tracee Jackson leaves and returns to her Crosby home, she sees the difference that Lionism makes.

Through the Rebuilding Together Houston program, the Lions and Leos of the Crosby Lions Club coalesced dozens of volunteers who on Saturday, Oct. 15, refurbished Jackson’s Melville Drive home.

Volunteers scraped the loose green paint and replaced it with a beige coat complemented by white newly attached trim and fresh paint under the roof overhang. They also secured or replaced siding as necessary, caulked voids to seal the structure from the elements, and built a wooden front porch, complete with railings.

The team performed interior roof repairs and renovated a bathroom to make it handicapped-accessible.

This is not an exhaustive account of the post-Hurricane Ike renovation.

A 20-year resident, Jackson was away during some of the volunteers’ work, which was carried out under the auspices of the Rebuilding program, a community outreach organization that repairs and renovates homes at no cost to the qualifying need-based homeowners.

When the homeowner returned, she picked up a paint brush and helped.

Having worked side-by-side with volunteers, Jackson insisted that she be called upon to volunteer on the next project, which would improve someone else’s home.

She could not believe the impact of Lionism and the broader display of community service. Upon examining the work, all Jackson knew was that these volunteers were good people; they were her kind of people.

“It overwhelmed me for them to show that much love toward someone that they didn’t know,” Jackson said. “Even though they didn’t know me, we did have common ground, and that was with Jesus.

“I know they had the love of God in them, for them to do something like that for a person they didn’t know — to sacrifice the time that they could have been spending with their families. To come and help me, a person in need, was very overwhelming.”

Volunteers were practically coming out of the woodwork, so to speak. Lions and Leos were joined by members of Crosby Boy Scout Troop 1411, the values-based citizenship of which is consistent with the 1917 founding humanitarian pillar of Lions and Leos.

Lions Clubs are known for their eyesight conservation initiatives and aid to people who suffer from vision loss. They sponsor eye exams, to include preschool vision screening, and collect recyclable eyeglasses strictly for overseas distribution.

Leo is a Lions Clubs community service organization focused on providing “leadership, experience and opportunity” to its youth and young adult membership.

The East Harris County Empowerment Council also was among the organizations represented.

The scope of volunteerism impressed and encouraged organizers.

“You always take a shot in the dark and hopefully everybody says, ‘Yes,’” Crosby Lions Club President Marcus Narvaez said, during the volunteers’ work day. “You hope for the best. Everybody can’t always make it. But this was a great turnout. Some of the people I didn’t even expect to come.

“I think it is fun to do this. To see all the people here gives you more fuel to just keep on working on the house.”

Lions and Leos praised the exemplary team spirit.

“My gosh, it’s awesome,” said Brenda Quintanilla, sponsor of the Crosby Leo Club at Crosby High School, who was painting under the roof overhang on the home’s east side. “Everybody is working together. If you walk around the house, you can see that so much work is getting done because we have so many people who came to volunteer. The Boy Scouts showed up! They are all helping, and it is really a great effort. We’re doing a great job, I think.”

Lionism is an everlasting doctrine, which is a reason Crosby Lions and Leos, whose Facebook page is www.facebook.com/crosbylionsclub, plan to continue helping people and improving neighborhood aesthetics through the Rebuilding program.

“We would like to do more Rebuilding projects,” Quintanilla said. “We are always looking for houses that we can help folks with. One of the biggest challenges that we found, so far, is finding people who would like our help. Sometimes folks don’t really want to step up and say, ‘I need the help.’

“So, if there is anybody out there who would like us to come by with Rebuilding Houston — there are some qualifications they have to meet — we would love to do more jobs like this.”

Jackson was an ideal choice for the project.

“I’ve met her,” Narvaez said. “She is well-deserving.”

Volunteers have been very proud to sacrifice a Saturday for Rebuilding Together Houston.

“I feel good about us fixing the old ladies’ houses,” said Boy Scout Jonathan Bliek, a member of Crosby Troop 1411. “I feel good for painting all of the fences; make her feel better.”

While Jackson was away, Troop 1411 Boy Scout Jacob Peña said that he had hoped the homeowner would return and be “surprised and happy that we helped her with her house.”

Wayne Homes rated as one of the area’s best workplaces for top-tier talent.

Uniontown, OH (MMD Newswire) September 23, 2011 – – It was a splendid affair. Among the companies honored at The NorthCoast 99 Awards, Wayne Homes was the only Homebuilder recognized as a destination for top talent.

“We’re proud of this achievement and to be in such good company.” says Mike Leckie-Ewing, Wayne Homes Vice President of Organizational Development.

The event wrapped up with a formal dinner and ceremony Wednesday night, September 14, at the LaCentre Conference and Banquet Facility in Westlake. Think of it as the Oscars for HR departments, where 99 of the region’s companies were recognized for their ability to attract and retain the region’s best talent.

Wayne Homes, headquartered in Uniontown, Ohio, has for many years focused on taking good care of its customers, including the ones on the payroll.

“What it comes down to is if you create a great work environment, great culture and build great products, people want to work for you,” Leckie-Ewing adds. “And that’s why Wayne Homes has such a wonderful team. It shows in the satisfaction of our customers and in our bottom line. Wayne really is a special place to work.”

About Wayne Homes

The task of constructing a home from the ground up is made less daunting thanks to Wayne Homes’ four decades of experience, streamlined process and exceptional personal service. They help customers through every step — from home-site prep and financing to choosing from numerous combinations of floorplans, features and finishes. The result is a home of extremely high quality that perfectly suits the homeowner’s needs. Homes range from 1,300 to 3,500 square feet and from the $80s to $200s (plus land cost). Learn more about building a custom, energy-efficient home by dropping by one of the company’s eight model home centers or by visiting WayneHomes.com

Ohio shale gas worth billions of dollars and 200,000 jobs

By John Funk, The Plain Dealer

 

Ohio shale gas CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio’s natural gas and oil reserves are a multibillion-dollar bonanza that could create more than 204,500 jobs in just four years, an industry group said Tuesday

The economic impact study, released on the eve of Gov. John Kasich’s energy summit, attributed the jobs to leasing, royalties, exploration, drilling, production and pipeline construction to produce gas and petroleum from Utica shale, a rock buried more than a mile and a half underground.

The summit is designed to open discussions about Ohio’s use of coal, natural gas and renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind as well as state-mandated energy efficiency rules.

Kasich has made it clear he thinks the state should allow shale gas development, if only because of its enormous potential for economic development.

His administration has insisted it does not oppose renewable energy technologies, currently more expensive that traditional power plants. At the same time, the administration holds that energy costs in the state must be kept as low as possible.

Shale gas production involves drilling deep wells and one or more horizontal shafts from each vertical well. By pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under pressure into the horizontal borings, producers fracture the shale, releasing the gas and oil, which is then produced through the vertical well.

Environmentalists criticize the technology, arguing that the risk of methane infiltrating underground water reservoirs must be figured out before the big energy corporations run rough-shod through the state.

Jack Shaner, spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Council, said Ohio is not ready for the onslaught that Big Oil and Gas is preparing.

Despite the state’s recent passage of a law requiring tougher drilling standards, the administration is still drawing up the actual regulations that drillers must abide, he said.

Shaner said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is still strengthening air quality standards for oil and gas fields, regulations that will be needed to combat air pollution if the boom envisioned actually happens.

“We could turn the Ohio Valley into Ozone Alley,” Shaner said, explaining that the emissions would come directly from the hydrocarbon themselves.

The new jobs study, contained in a 92-page economic impact analysis, was prepared by economic research company Kleinhenze & Associates of Cleveland for the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Association.

The conclusions are based on propriety information obtained from large gas and oil corporations that jockeyed for months to lease mineral rights from rural land owners. Marietta College, Ohio State University, Central Ohio Technical College and Zane State College contributed to the data analysis.

Among the study’s main conclusions:

• Over the next five years, oil and gas producers are expected to spend $34 billion in exploration and development, pipelines, royalty payments to landowners and other leasing expenditures.

• New jobs would start slowly — 4,614 jobs this year, increasing to 22,297 next year — and then mushroom by tens of thousands from 2013 through 2015, culminating at an estimated 204,520 jobs by 2015.

• Wages, salaries and personal income attributable to the production would soar to an estimated $12 billion per year, including $1.6 billion in royalties, by 2015.

• Annual tax revenues, including income, property, commercial activity and “severance” taxes or royalties tied to the production would total $478.9 million by 2015.

The Ohio Environmental Council, which has advocated a go-slow approach to shale gas, claims there is at least one U.S. Department of Energy study showing that methane from deep shale gas has migrated into water wells.

The group pointed Tuesday to another study that claims Ohio is already the beneficiary of jobs attributed to renewable energy and energy efficiency manufacturing.

The “Clean Economy” study, released in the spring, was done by the Brookings Institution with help from Battelle, the sponsor of this week’s summit. The study claimed 105,306 Ohio jobs are attributable to new technologies. But that study also included mass transit jobs.

The Environmental Council has been part of an industry group that wants state regulators to allow industry to generate power from waste heat, a practice Ohio’s utilities have resisted.

In another study done by industry and the council, the group estimated Ohio industries could generate 11 billion watts of power from waste heat, enough power to allow Ohio to export electricity.

The Kasich administration has been enthusiastic about this kind of power generation.

 

History of oil, gas drilling in Lake Township runs deep

By Edd Pritchard
In a farm field on the east side of Maplegrove Avenue NE sits DS Yoder 4, an oil well that has been producing for more than 100 years.

It’s not Stark County’s oldest well. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources gives that honor to the “Frank Hartzell 1” well, which reached its total depth on Aug. 12, 1900. It was plugged and abandoned in August 1929.

Records show that DS Yoder 4 dates to Jan. 1, 1908, as do several other wells with the name “Yoder” in southeast Nimishillen Township. State officials have designated DS Yoder 4 as being the oldest productive well in the county. It pulls from the Berea sandstone formation, although state records don’t report the well’s depth.

LONG HISTORY

Stark is among the 76 Ohio counties where oil or natural gas have been found. Ohio’s oldest commercial oil well dates to 1860 in Washington County, while natural gas wells have been producing since 1884.

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association notes that Ohio lays claim to the first discovery of oil, from a drilled well in 1814, when a saltwater well found oil 475 feet underground in Noble County.

With that history, it’s not surprising that oil companies once again are scouring the state in search of oil and natural gas. This time, they hope to tap the Utica and Marcellus shale formations.

The uptick has raised environmental concerns about a process used — hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking — to release oil and gas from the rock formations. But oil producers say fracking has been successful for decades.

Nearly 6,500 wells have been drilled through the years in Stark County and about 3,000 of those wells continue to produce oil and natural gas, said Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program. Most of the wells are in the Clinton sandstone formation, which lies about 4,600 feet deep, between the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.

About 90 percent of the wells drilled into Clinton sandstone are commercially successful. The wells are known for producing both oil and gas, sometimes in combination, said William G. Williams, a lawyer with Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty who has specialized in the oil and gas business.

The East Canton Oil Field, which stretches from Lake Township in a relatively straight line south toward Uhrichsville, was discovered in 1947 and taps the Clinton sandstone. Although wells in the area remain productive, state officials believe the field can generate more oil and gas through a secondary recovery technique that injects carbon dioxide into the rock formation.

Local companies — Belden & Blake, MB Operating and Lomak — drilled many of the Clinton wells. Through the years, the properties and companies have changed hands. Now, many of the wells are owned by EnerVest, a Houston-based company with a regional office north of Hartville in Portage County.

RENEWED INTEREST

EnerVest and Chesapeake Energy are two of the companies making the initial push to drill the Utica shale formation in eastern Ohio.

The nature of the rock formations prevented companies from drilling many shale wells in the past. Shale formations are thin bands of rock. While geologists have known the formations contain oil and gas, the narrow bands usually weren’t productive enough for commercial use, said Doug Gonzalez, president of GonzOil, a gas exploration company based in Jackson Township.

“We always knew there was a lot of potential in shale,” said Gonzalez, a geologist who found himself working in the oil industry after graduating from Kent State University in the early 1980s.

During the past 15-20 years, developments in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed access to shale rock formations. That has spurred the renewed interest in drilling Stark County’s oil and natural gas fields.

Drillers can reach a large section of shale rock by bending and drilling sideways. Hydraulic fracturing — a process where a slurry of water, chemicals and sand is injected into a well under high pressure — is used to break the shale and release the oil and gas.

TECHNIQUE NOT NEW

But even horizontal drilling is “old news” in some Stark County oil and gas circles. The 1989 annual report for the former Belden & Blake describes horizontal drilling and notes the potential to penetrate a larger section of a producing zone.

Belden & Blake also is credited with doing some of the first hydraulic fracturing of wells in Ohio.

A September 1954 article in the Hartville News featured photographs of Belden & Blake workers who were hydraulic fracturing a well on farm southeast of Hartville. The article states that hydraulic fracturing was first used in West Texas oil fields in 1948, and credits Belden & Blake for fracking the first Appalachian-area well near East Sparta in July 1952.

The articles describes a different process for hydraulic fracturing. A mixture of oil and sand was being pumped into the well, which was 4,658 feet deep, to crack the Clinton sandstone formation and release more oil and gas.

‘SHOOT THE WELL’

While hydraulic fracturing has caused concern for some environmentalists, industry officials contend it’s an improvement over earlier methods.

Reda, of the Ohio energy education program, said dynamite and nitroglycerin were used to stimulate wells in early years. Explosives were dropped down the well to break the rock, which led to the phrase “shoot the well,” she said.

Past drilling helped Stark County’s economy through the years, Williams said.

Landowners were paid to lease mineral rights and collected royalties. Entrepreneurs launched businesses drilling wells or serving the drilling companies. The industry created jobs.

It’s happened in cycles with each oil discovery, and it’s beginning again.

Last summer, when companies began asking to lease mineral rights, most offered about $800 per acre and royalties of 8 percent. The lease prices and royalties have been climbing, and more large companies are entering the market, Williams said. Lease rights are nearing $5,000 per acre in some Ohio counties.

Williams estimates that mineral rights of some sort have been leased on 95 percent of the land in Stark County. Much of that is because of the land leased years ago during earlier oil booms. Also there is large section of Jackson Township — drilled during the 1930s — that now serves as a natural gas storage area of Dominion East Ohio Gas.

Lake Elementary School has been named a 2011 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

Lake Elementary School has been named a 2011 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. 225 public and 49 private schools across the nation received the award, which is based upon high levels of achievement or for success in closing the achievement gap.

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program was begun under President Ronald Reagan by Terrel H. Bell, Secretary of Education who penned A Nation at Risk after studying education in the United States.

The program was designed to encourage schools to increase performance, with three purposes: to honor and bring public attention to American schools that achieve high academic standards or have shown significant academic improvement over five years; to make available a comprehensive framework of key criteria for school effectiveness that can serve as a basis for participatory self-assessment and planning in schools; to facilitate communication and sharing of best practices within and among schools based on a common understanding of criteria related to success.

Of the country’s 138,000 public schools, only 6,500 schools have received this award since 1982. Public schools are nominated by the Chief State School Officers and by officials at the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. Private schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education. The number of possible applicants from each state is based on the number of schools and K-12 students, ranging from a minimum of three schools to a maximum of 35. The potential for all nominations is 413 schools each year.

Lake Elementary has shown consistently high scores on standardized testing in all academic areas. Lake’s Principal, Donna Bruner, credits her staff, both classified and certified, for the achievement of this recognition. “We are so fortunate to have dedicated, committed and hardworking staff who put our children first”, says Bruner. “We work well as a team, and we love our jobs. We have a supportive community and great parents who also contribute to our students’ success.”

A list of the 2011 National Blue Ribbon Schools is available at http://www.ed.gov/nationalblueribbonschools.

Washington Post: Gov. Kasich and His Bold Plans to Fix Ohio

KASICH FAMILY PHOTOGovernor John Kasich recently spoke with Jennifer Rubin from the Washington Post about Ohio’s Jobs Budget and his efforts to restore jobs and prosperity back to our great state. You can read more here and share your thoughts below:

It’s been more than 10 years since Republican John Kasich left the House. But he’s lost none of his youthful exuberance. In a real sense he carries the spirit of the late Jack Kemp, the quintessential Republican reformer who combined blue-collar appeal with a wonkish love of policy.

In a far-ranging telephone interview yesterday afternoon, Kasich showed why he’s regarded as one of the most aggressive reformers among the new crop of Republican governors. It’s clear he’s working hard. He jokes, “This is the first time in a long time I’ve gone two days without exercising and I’m not sick.” He says with relish, “I’m extremely busy.”

That’s an understatement. I wanted to talk to him about SB 5, the measure to severely curtail public employee bargaining rights and require employees to increase their contributions. (An analysis provided by his spokesman shows that had the measure been in place last year, it would have saved local governments in the state $1.1 billion.) Kasich tells me, “We’ve unveiled the most comprehensive reform budget people have seen in a generation.” The union reform is key, but “it’s only one element” to allow local governments to control their costs. He notes that under the bill public-employee unions can still negotiate for wages and working conditions, but not health care and pension benefits. It would also end public-employee union strikes and automatic pay increases.

Kasich explains that the equation between public employees and taxpayers needs to be “rebalanced,” with the idea that the taxpayers through their elected officials should control the state budget. He points to troubling examples of how the balance has gotten out of whack: “We’re in the bottom 10 [among states] in dollars in the classroom, and the top 10 in dollars for administration.” He continues to rattle off examples in which Ohio and its taxpayers have lost control of government finances. “The city of Mansfield,” he explains, “is on the way to bankruptcy.” He denies accusations that he is out to get the unions. “Nothing could be farther from the truth,” he says. He points to some compelling math: The average Ohioan must pay 23 percent.of his own health care; government workers pay only 9 percent.

He quickly returns to his main point: The union bill is only one of a long list of reforms that include Medicaid reform, prison reform, a strategy to use profits from state-run liquor businesses to fund a public-private job-creation entity to replace the state development department, and a massive overhaul of education (including lifting caps on charter schools, increasing school vouchers, ending “last hired/first fired” teacher tenure rules and inviting Teach America participants to come into the schools.) Moreover, he says, “we’ve asked state agencies, departments and bureaus to come in with savings below last year’s [budget].”

He says the business community has noticed the change. A major developer in the state who controls tens of millions of square feet of commercial real estate shared with him that “there is a real buzz among the business community that the [Kasich] administration really does get it.” He reels off a list of job-creation efforts. It includes a new warehouse, a new motion picture to shoot in the state and successful outreach to California business. Of the last, he cracks, “We sent a delegation to that foreign country — California.” He relates that of the 20 companies they met with, “12 expressed an interest” in Ohio.

But the glass-half-full governor says that because his predecessor so mismanaged the state’s budget he is able to make visible progress rather quickly.

A case in point is Medicaid. Kasich has been crisis-crossing the state selling Ohio voters on a revamp of the Medicaid system. That includes shifting resources from nursing home care to home-based care and moving to outcome-based medical care. (Kasich says the nursing home industry is a vested interest and a lonely voice that has opposed the change.) Kasich is negotiating with the federal Department of Health and Human Services to allow the system of long-term care to be streamlined.

Kasich is generally pleased with the level of bipartisan support for his agenda, although he notes that this is more true in the state Senate than in the House. (A transportation bill passed overwhelming in the state Senate but along party lines in the House.) He says, “I’m a believer in bipartisanship.” While his Democratic opponents may look at him as the “enemy,” he says, “I don’t look at life that way.”