CARROLL Co., Ohio - It is the new gold rush. In this case, it's black gold.
Oil and gasses like ethane, propane and butane, could transform the Dayton region and Ohio into what some call the new Saudi Arabia.
Giant companies are already drilling into the shale rock below Carroll County in northeast Ohio where the boom has begun.
Last week, we made the 200 mile drive there to see first-hand the newfound prosperity in a place that's been desperate for jobs and money.
In the late 1890's, the lure of untold riches drew thousands of men to the Yukon for the Klondike gold rush. Now, more than 100 years later, it's happening again in Ohio.
"I used to read a lot of Jack London and he wrote about the Klondike gold rush. This is it all over again, its incredible it has that kind of feel you're right if you own 200 acres here you're an instant millionaire."
But this time, the prize is oil and natural gas being brought to the surface by a new mining technique called hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
They drill down, then horizontally and inject millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to fracture the shale and release the trapped oil and gas.
Almost overnight, Carroll County has become the fracking capital of Ohio.
"We're going to see triple the number of rigs here within a year," says County Economic Development Director Glenn Enslen. "It's gonna become an incredibly busy place . The oil and gas people are telling me anybody who can walk, chew gum and wants a job will have a job, so it's something we've never seen before and it's really exciting."
And you could sense that excitement at this April gathering of oil and gas drillers and area businesses.
There is money to be made and everyone is looking for their piece of the pie.
"Within the last year, there's been a new birth of happiness in this area."
Jeff Herron is a local oilman, born and raised in Carroll County, a place that's endured decades of tough times.
"We haven't always had the best of everything around here and finally we're standing to get some of that and it's really nice us and Columbiana and Harrison and some of the other areas are finally reaping the rewards for all our hard work. The good days are finally here, yeah I hope so," said Jeff.
Just how good remains to be seen, but fracking is big business in Ohio and it's about to get much bigger.
Right now, 179 horizontal wells have been approved here, but in the next three years, the state estimates that number will grow to 2,250.
And some analysts say the real money is in land.
3.8 million acres of Ohio have already been leased or acquired by oil and gas interests led by Chesapeake Energy.
It's based in Oklahoma, but now owns more than 10% of eastern Ohio and its rich bounty, thousands of feet underground.
"Another very key ingredient in the process is water. It can take 5 million gallons of it to fully fracture the shale and release the oil and gas and once that happens that water has to go somewhere."
Where it goes is back underground into what are called disposal wells.
We already have 176 of them in Ohio, with 42 more on the way, permanent repositories of the chemical-laden byproduct of the fracking process.
"95 percent of Carroll County's 30,000 residents rely on private groundwater for their water source.
Paul Feezel chairs a group called Carroll Concerned Citizens. They're not opposed to fracking, but do want to make sure that things like water, land, property values and quality of life are protected.
State records show 53% of the 511 million gallons of fracking wastewater injected into Ohio disposal wells last year came from out of state mostly Pennsylvania and West Virginia. And someday soon, it could be coming here.
"We just learned from a PhD in hydrology earlier this week that, unfortunately, the geologic structure they want to go to is shallowest around the Cincinnati Dayton area so that means for those smart drillers who are gonna drill new wells why drill 9000 feet when you can drill 2000 feet and get to the same strata it means its likely those injection wells are coming Cincinnati's way," said Feezel.
In the meantime, remember a conversation between the President and the Governor at UD Arena a few weeks ago? They were talking about fracking with the Governor saying how Ohio could serve as a national model of how to be environmentally sound and still create jobs.
The rewards are clear, but so are the risks and the future of Ohio is at stake.
"We know hydraulic fracturing is safe, we have a record that proves it. We're a safer industry than we've ever been. I'm not saying we've never made a mistake. We learn from our mistakes, we take care of things. We're trying to advocate the economic development of the play and at the same time we're good stewards," says Jim Pritt of Enervest.
But Feezel says, "We're saying yeah we think this might be an economic boom, but lets not do it at the expense of citizens, water, future generations and health."
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