STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County's Oil and Gas Committee is planning to take its show on the road.
Committee members decided Wednesday that it was time to start thinking about reaching out to the community, so area residents with questions or concerns can get them addressed.
"The goal of the Oil and Gas Committee is to make Jefferson County a better place to live and work 10 years from now than it is today," sad Kim Cline of Progress Alliance. "Communication is an important part of that. Even though people involved with the oil and gas industry are aware of developments in the county, some of our residents may have questions or concerns. We want to provide them with the information and resources they need to move smoothly through this growth process."
EMPHASIZING A POINT — Carroll County Commissioner Tom Wheaton, left, listened as Jefferson County Commissioner Dave Maple made a point Wednesday during the Jefferson County Oil and Gas Committee meeting held at the Pugliese Training Center at Eastern Gateway Community College. -- Linda Harris
Earlier in the meeting, committee members had heard Carroll County Commissioner Tom Wheaton, one of two guest speakers, talk about the impact the oil and gas industry has had on his community, where the drilling industry is much more advanced.
"You need to stay ahead of it," he advised. "Try to do everything you can to get things in line for what is coming."
Things like having enough police, firefighters and emergency personnel can be critical, he said, as well as ensuring that, "for every site there needs to be an emergency plan" that details exactly how the community will respond in the event of an emergency. He said it's also "really important" to ensure drilling operators are given the actual physical address of properties to prevent big rigs from making wrong turns into driveways rather than drill sites.
Wheaton said in Carroll County drillers have begun using temporary water lines on top of the ground to get water to well sites rather than hauling it in by truck, an intensive process since each fracking job requires 5 million to 6 million gallons of water.
And, he pointed out that the permanent pipelines designed to transport the gas "create a maze of pipeline around the county."
"You've got to be careful, you want to make sure it's away from houses," Wheaton said. "It's something you'd ever expect."
He said property owners need to speak up.
"Money is not the most important thing for them, it's time," he added. "If you don't want them to do something, they'll do it another way."
Finding ways to ensure local workers benefit from the jobs the oil and gas industry brings to the Ohio Valley has become a hot-button topic: This week, members of Laborers' International Union of North America picketed Progressive Pipeline's work sites near Bergholz to protest the company's reliance on out-of-state laborers. Progressive is installing a gathering system for Chesapeake Energy.
Eastern Gateway Community College's Tracee Joltes, assistant work force outreach director, said part of the problem is that the drilling industry uses downhill welding, a technique that is very different from the uphill style used locally.
"A lot of very experienced, very skilled welders are having a heck of a time learning the downhill technique," she said. "It's completely different. They're all having trouble with this technique, you don't understand it until you've tried it."
Wheaton and Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman said the real jobs growth locally may be with third-party companies - companies that have contracted with major oil companies to be involved in the drilling process, which could mean anything from delivering water to testing the wells.
"I think that's what we've experienced so far and I hope it continues," he said. "It seems to be what we're fortunate enough to be drawing here, companies involved in the process who will be looking to hire people."
Looman said while some of the major, multi-million projects have sidestepped Jefferson County, the community already has seen "about 495 jobs created since the first of the year."
"And we're close to landing more," he said.
Looman also said the inventory of available properties is shrinking - 14 buildings have been leased and eight others sold. Seven sales or leases are pending, he added.
Wheaton, meanwhile, told the group that in Carroll County, some smaller companies having trouble capturing oil and gas contracts on their own are banding together.
"Some trucking companies have done that, they've joined together and been able to" meet eligibility requirements.