Natural Gas Drilling in Guernsey County, OH

Eric Mize, energy preparedness and public awareness manager said it best at the Guernsey Energy Coalition meeting in October in the town of Cambridge, Ohio: “Ohio is the new Texas”[1]. Natural gas extraction has more than doubled in this area since 2004 due to its abundance in the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale[2]: two of the largest in the world[3].

Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale:

Location of Guernsey in Ohio :*W03UVPd7JL7GSwAQ/200pxMap_of_Ohio_highlighting_Guernsey_County.jpg?crop=1%3A1&
Location of Guernsey in Ohio (Benbennick 2006).
Guernsey County, OH. Source:

The Guernsey Energy Coalition held its first meeting back in June 2011, and since then, natural gas drilling has exploded in the region[4]. We have heard little from the residents of Guernsey County during this three-year span about the affects of natural gas drilling in the region. Guernsey is the 74th poorest county in Ohio (of 88 total)[5] and its monetary standing is crucial in understanding the economic and environmental risks, as well as the environmental justice issues faced by its marginalized group of residents: the poor, elderly, and disabled.

The gas industry has a direct tie to the lives of this marginalized group in Guernsey County, Ohio. The issue of housing and renting costs is a particular issue in the town of Cambridge. Judie Perkowski of The Daily Jeffersonian wrote an article addressing the problems faced by the disabled and elderly in Cambridge due to natural gas drilling in the county[6]. In 2012, 20% of the population in Guernsey had a disability, and, of citizens 65 and over, 41.9% had a disability. Both are higher than state averages[7].

Prices of Homes in Guernsey County, Source:
Prices of Homes in Guernsey County (City Data 2016).

Due to the elderly working less, these statistics work in contrast with housing rates. Since 2010, median housing in Guernsey has risen from just under $60,000 to just under $90,000[8]. Given the poor and disabled generally have less income, the cost of housing leaves them economically vulnerable and susceptible to further exploitation by natural gas companies, whom are eager to drill in this region.

The Ohio Development Services Agency released a statement regarding fair housing and rental prices in the state, acknowledging the negative affect of natural gas companies[9]. Rental housing is an issue in Cambridge, as 47.1% of people had a gross rent that was 35% or more of their household income in 2012. That rate was higher than that of Guernsey and Fairfield County’s, as well as the state of Ohio[10].

Tioga County, PA. vs. Guernsey County, OH.

A case study of Tioga County, Pennsylvania, a county with very similar economic and environmental characteristics, is comparable to Guernsey County[11]. In fact, Tioga County has a higher percentage of families whose income is below the poverty line relative to state averages. In 2012, gross rent as a percentage of household income in Tioga (41.1%) was higher than Guernsey County’s[12].

Tioga County, Source:
Tioga County (Benbennick 2006).

Mobile homes were an issue for Tioga County and are also seen in Guernsey[13]. Considering Tioga was experiencing a decrease in the number of natural gas wells in 2012, Guernsey may very well be experiencing higher poverty levels soon, due to the increasing number of wells in the region[14]. There are countless wells producing in the region and gas companies show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Guernsey County is vulnerable to more than just environmental hazards of fracking. In reference to “Environmental Justice” by Mohai et. al., evidence shows that Guernsey County is victimized by economical and sociopolitical exploitation[15]. The economic exploitation theory is shown in Guernsey, where land is relatively cheap; more than 75% of people have a home less than $150,000, while only 56% of all of Ohio has land value under that amount. In reference, neighboring Fairfield County only has 45% under that amount[16]. Gas companies realize they will benefit more from cheaper land in Guernsey – bearing less costs for land and labor. Interestingly enough, in Tioga County, researchers found that benefits of the community (higher employment rates, economic improvement etc.) were temporary, working alongside exploitation of gas companies[17].

Environmental Injustices

This first idea ties in nicely with the sociopolitical reasons gas companies choose Guernsey for natural gas drilling. The sociopolitical theory is evident because companies would rather deal with less controversy and exploit the poorer Guernsey County than generate commotion in a wealthier county[18].

Guernsey County and its neighbors are a prime example of this theory. Delaware, Fairfield, Cuyahoga, and Guernsey counties are all located above either the Marcellus or Utica shale’s. Delaware, the richest county per capita in Ohio, only has two operators currently producing, with just six wells currently on file. Cuyahoga County is the 14th in highest per capita income in Ohio. It only has 31 operators drilling with a sum of 366 wells producing. Fairfield County, ranked 15th in highest income per capita in Ohio, has 27 operators currently producing with only 116 wells currently on file.* Meanwhile, in Guernsey County, 58 operators are currently extracting from the region, with 1,021 wells currently producing.[19]

Natural gas companies are taking the path of least resistance when choosing an area to produce natural gas. Poorer communities are naturally easier targets for these companies to exploit, and that is exactly what is happening in Guernsey County. In connection with this, a form of the resource curse[20] is also taking place. Guernsey County and its townships are sitting above one of the most abundant sources of natural gas in the world, however they are not receiving any of the benefits of its extraction. Eric Mize understands this principle. He voices his thoughts and concerns in an article written by Judie Perkowski, looking for more local funding.[21] This same thing took place in Tioga County. There was very little revenue for local governments and for the citizens who faced the dangers of natural gas drilling[22].

Environmental Sustainability Concerns

Environmentally, the main concern is dirty drinking water as a result of acids and chemicals added to increase the force of the fracture[23]. Containing wastewater is difficult and drilling horizontally is a much riskier, and complex process as compared to vertical drilling, and can be further understood here[24]. Cambridge lacks actual wells in the town, however pollution can easily cross over county lines. This environmental sustainability issue is seen in Barnesville, Ohio at a proposed well pad 500 feet from the home of John and Sally Saliga. Cathryn Stanley describes the problem with the well pad proximity to the Slope Creek Reservoir (100 ft.) in her article.[25]

Wills Creek, Source:

Another environmental sustainability issue is the Enervest Operating well’s proximity to Wells Creek in the township of Liberty. The Creek is the biggest watershed in the county and feeds north and drains into the Muskingum River.[26] It has been producing gas since 2011[27]. Similar to the Snead pad, if natural gas were to seep into the water supply, it could affect land cultivation and crops along the Muskingum River and its tributaries. The well is an environmental threat that could have serious consequences if a mistake is made.


[1] Perkwoski, J. (2014, October 6). Enery Coalition Resumes Meetings. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from Gas and Oil:

[2] Drilling Edge. (2014). Oil and Gas Production in Guernsey County, OH. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from Drilling Edge:

[3] Wilber, T. (2012) Under the Surface Fracking, Fortunes and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

[4] Perkowski, J. (2014, June 6). Guernsey Energy Coalition’s Last Monthly Meeting, Next Meeting in September. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from The Daily Jefferson:

[5] United States Department of Commerce. (2012). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 17, 2014, from American Fact Finder:

[6] Perkowski, J. (2014, August 5) Study to Determine How Shale Development Affects Guernsey County Communities. Retrieved October 14, 2014.

[7] United States Department of Commerce (2012)

[8] City Data, (2014). Guernsey County, Ohio. Retrieved October 30, 2014.

[9] Goodman, D. & Kasich, J. (2013) FY 2014 Fair Housing and New Horizons Fair Housing Assistance Program Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes. Ohio Development Services Agency. Office of Community Development

[10] United States Department of Commerce (2012)

[11] Ward, S., Price , M., & Polson, D. (2014). Measuring the Costs and Benefits of Natural Gas Development in Tioga County. 17.

[12] United States Department of Commerce (2012)

[13] United States Department of Commerce (2012)

[14] Drilling Edge (2014)

[15] Mohai, P., Pellow, D., & Roberts, J. T. (2009, July 28). Environmental Justice. Annual Review of Environment Resources, 405-430.

[16] United States Department of Commerce, 2012.

[17] Ward, Price, and Polson (2014)

[18]Mohai, Pellow, and Roberts (2009)

* Those are just the number of wells currently producing. The number of total wells per county is much larger. Delaware- 417, Cuyahoga- 3,465, Fairfield- 3,087, Guernsey- 5,826. Still, Guernsey County out-does all of them.

[19] Drilling Edge (2014)

[20] Mohai, Pellow, and Roberts (2009)

[21] Perkowski, Energy Coalition Resumes Meetings (2014)

[22] Ward, Price, and Polson (2014)

[23] Kargbo, D., Wilhelm, R. G., & Campbell, J. D. (2010). Natural Gas Plays in the Marcellus Shale: Challenges and Potential Opportunities. Environmental Science and Technology , 5679-5684.

[24] Schmidt, C. W. (2011, April). Blind Rush? Shale Gas Boom Proceeds amid Human Health Questions. Environmental Health Perspectives , A348-A353.

[25] Stanley, C. (2014, July 2). Barnesville Residents Question Council about Location of Well Pad Site. Retrieved Gas and Oil on October 20, 2014,

[26] Little, C., Thompson, P. L., N’Jie, N.-M., & Brown, L. (n.d.). Water Resources of Guernsey County. Retrieved October 21, 2014, from Ohio State University Extension Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering:

[27] ODNR. (2014). Division of Oil and Gas Resources. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from ODNR:


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