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Mystery fracking memo deepens Ohio drilling debate

By Kase Wickman
Monday, August 8, 2011 12:39 EDT
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A mysterious, unsigned five-page memo that appears to coach oil lease buyers to dupe landowners into allowing fracking in their back yards deepened the debate over the controversial practice when it was discovered in a crushed binder in a Greene County, Ohio driveway.

The shale-rich land of Greene County is a hot commodity, the Associated Press reported, and residents are used to being approached by so-called landmen, who go door to door trying to lease property for drilling. Residents said that that the language in the memo reminded them of Jim Bucher, who represents West Bay Exploration Co. in Traverse City, Michigan.

The memo, which isn’t on letterhead and has no logo, can’t be directly connected to Bucher, according to investigations by the District Attorney.

The memo gives instructions to ignore the dangers of groundwater contamination and property devaluation, downplay the controversial natural gas drilling and to describe the drilling process as “radioactive free” — despite the fact that the memo acknowledges that is a lie.

Residents in Greene County said the memo repeated many talking points used by Bucher.

Shale gas, the product extracted via hydraulic fracturing, is twice as bad for the climate as coal is, according to a Cornell University study. Despite the data, natural gas is seen as “green” and “clean,” and has been endorsed by President Barack Obama. The problem is the method of extraction: by drilling into shale, twice as much methane leaks from the well over time and escapes into the atmosphere.

The Environmental Protection Agency is blocked from regulating fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but urged for federal standards for the practice. Because of the relatively cheap cost and abundance of shale gas, the industry has boomed. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas reserves could supply the U.S.’s needs for 110 years.

In Greene County, where no oil leases have been signed and local resistance to landmen is strong, some are convinced that the memo is connected to Bucher, while others call the memo a hoax meant to stir up the debate and further demonize drilling companies.

“The first time I read it, I really found it humorous. It was kind of like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit: ‘How not to train a landman,” West Bay’s vice president Pat Gibson said.

Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
 
 
 
 
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