Sustainability Model for Communities Impacted by Unconventional Oil and Gas Development

July 9, 2014

In less than a decade unconventional oil and gas production has proliferated in the United States. This occurrence is not a new phenomenon but the technology being used and the geographical areas in the United States are new.  These are two of the factors that have allowed the oil and gas industry to expand.

According to the Energy Information Administration report in 2012, in just five years natural gas markets in the U.S. have grown by 20 percent and in the last decade the number of producing natural gas wells increased by 146,000. This same report indicated domestic crude oil production is also at record highs and projected to grow. Industry growth is projected to unfold so rapidly that the Energy Information Report predicts it will reshape the energy economy and rural communities along with it.

Ohio is one of the states currently impacted by the unconventional oil and gas development and its production. Oil and gas development and production activities interact with communities. This development has a significant impact on rural community’s economy, environment, and social issues.  Little systematic knowledge about unconventional drilling’s social, economic, and environmental outcomes and ways they affect rural resident’s quality of life.

OSU Extension Community Development has received multiple grants to research the impact of unconventional drilling on rural communities. The purpose of one the grants, from the North Central Region Center for Rural Development, will be to develop a community model for long term sustainability. This model is currently being piloted in Guernsey County located in the East Central region of Ohio.  The sustainability plan involves community members from a variety of sectors including economic development, social services, infrastructure, agriculture, housing, education, workforce development, tourism, technology, safety, health care, environment and land use.

The lessons and research learned from this pilot will provide a model for other communities. These vital lessons will also be shared with policy makers and key stakeholders. As technologies are developed and changed, these findings can help inform rural decision makers about the impact of unconventional drilling in the rural communities. If you would like more information about this pilot and community model, please contact us or look on this website under the Energize Ohio Energy Curriculum tab. Information will be posted as it is developed.

Written by: Cindy Bond, Extension Educator Community Development