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The promise and peril of Ohio and PA's fracking for gas explored tonight

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/02/11 @ 12:37pm

· Ohio is closely watching how Pennsylvania deals with the environmental impact if it continues to pursue controversial 'fracking' for natural gas of its Marcellus Shale formation underlying two-thirds of the state. Deputy Director for the state's Nature Conservancy office, Nels Johnson, led a research project to explore the land use and habitat impacts of the 'rush' to frack and compared it to the state's pursuit of wind power. Aerial photos show that Marcellus gas development has so far cleared just 3,500 acres of forest- compare to 1,000 acres for wind turbine farms.

Johnson heads a panel discussion on the 'perils and promise' at the Natural History Museum tonight where experts will weigh in on the land use, habitat and water impacts of fracking in PA and Ohio.

Johnson predicts there could be as many as 60,000 wells drilled on 6,000 to 15,000 new well pads (there are currently about 1,000), depending on how many wells are placed on each pad in PA. He runs a forecast that gas development will occur in at least half of the state's counties, with the densest development likely in 15 counties in southwest, north central, and northeast Pennsylvania. By 2030, a range of between 38,000 to 90,000 acres of forest cover could be cleared by new Marcellus gas development in the state. Forest clearing for the wind development scenarios is much smaller, ranging from 1,900 to 5,200 acres.

The Marcellus shale formation is now believed to be one of the largest unconventional shale gas reserves in the world. The Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act of 2004, along with state and federal incentives, will likely boost expansion of wind, wood biomass, and other alternative energy types over the next two decades. But, how much of each energy type might be developed? What transmission infrastructure will be needed to get more electric power and natural gas to consumers? And, where are these energy types most likely to be developed? How does the likely scale and location of future energy development overlap with priority conservation areas? The Pennsylvania Energy Impacts Assessment seeks answers to these questions so that conservationists can work more effectively with energy companies and government agencies to avoid, minimize or mitigate habitat impacts in the future.

Read Johnson's report, "Pennsylvania energy impacts assessment: Marcellus Shale natural gas and wind."

· Ohio City Incorporated is launching a community-driven planning process designed to focus attention on Lorain Avenue as Ohio City's main street. With the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, they will host a three-day design charrette for the Lorain and South of Lorain area, with a focus on transportation, safety, retail development, housing, green space/recreation and multi-modal connections. This is a part of Ohio City, Inc.'s push to recast Lorain and W. 25th as an 'artisan' district, continuing the recent influx of local trades and restaurants filling up the empty storefronts and infusing the area with energy. In the same space as the charrette, a pop-up shop featuring local wares, movie nights, comedy, art, etc. will take over a storefront at W. 32nd and Lorain. For more information.

· Speaking of Ohio City ? the PD reports on a new economic development push by Ohio City, Inc. wrapped around the 100th anniversary of the West Side Market (in 2012). A survey by CSU found that 32% of WSM regulars want more local food offerings.

· A bunch of new jobs have been posted this week to the GCBL community jobs board. They include:

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