The Marcellus Shale region, which includes east and southeast Ohio, ranks second in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and fourth worldwide, according to Climate TRACE, a global organization that monitors and inventories gases.
Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) is a nonprofit coalition that independently tracks climate emissions in real time. Total emissions for Marcellus include emissions and transportation from all oil and gas production happening in the basin, which includes Ohio, said a Climate TRACE spokesperson.
The Marcellus basin lies under large parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.
Natural gas fracking produces not only methane gas, but also ethane, which is made into ethylene, the foundation for plastics manufacturing. In November, 2022, Shell opened a $6 billion Monaca, Pa., petrochemical plant on the Ohio River 20 miles east of East Liverpool, Ohio. Shell plans to manufacture 1.6 million metric tons of plastic there annually, emitting nearly 160 tons of fine, particulate matter and 522 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, according to Inside Climate News.
Exposure to these emissions is linked to cancers, birth defects, miscarriages, and issues in the brain, liver, kidney, heart and lungs.
“We were shocked to discover that southeast Ohio is already part of ground zero when it comes to fracking and the release of greenhouse gases — including methane — that cause extreme temperatures and climate change,” said Roxanne Groff of Save Ohio Parks. “Can you imagine if fracking is allowed at Salt Fork State Park, Wolf Run State Park and our other parks and public lands? The Climate TRACE measurements were taken in 2021. There is no way the United States will be able to meet any credible climate goals to stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming this decade if new leases to frack our state parks are permitted.”
Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D., a retired chemist, ecologist and Save Ohio Parks volunteer, said this ranking by an independent, global consortium should be a wake-up call to everyone concerned about fracking’s effects on rising temperatures and the health of our ecosystems.
“Looking at the Climate TRACE global map, the Marcellus Shale area in southeast Ohio has 124.38 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent heating potential over the next 100 years, and the Utica Shale region in Ohio has a greenhouse gas emissions potential of 33.25 megatons over 100 years,” said Pokladnik. “This makes the Marcellus Shale gas and oil fields currently number two in the United States and number four globally as far as emitting greenhouse gases in our future.
“Utica Shale ranks seventh in the U.S. and 29th globally. For comparison, the Texas Permian oil and gas fields are ranked the number-one largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, with a 206 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent.”
The United States is second only to China in greenhouse gas emissions and third overall for fossil fuel emissions.
Save Ohio Parks reached out for comment from Anne Vogel, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which monitors air emissions; Dan Tierney, press spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine; and Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. All three either declined to comment or did not respond.
Marcellus Shale is the second-largest natural gas deposit in the world, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Utica Shale lies under four states and parts of Canada. Eastern Ohio has become a major natural gas and oil producer from Utica Shale since 2011.
Pokladnik explained the magnitude of the Climate TRACE rankings in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) measurements over 20-year and 100-year time frames.
“All the measurements, which include the major greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, refrigerants, nitrogen oxides and sulfur hexafluoride, are given a weighted average based on their longevity in the atmosphere and their potential to absorb heat,” she said. “Carbon dioxide is rated a 1, and methane is rated a 30 because it has more heat absorption capacity.
“Therefore, a smaller quantity of methane can do a great deal more atmospheric warming than the same quantity of carbon dioxide,” Pokladnik added. “The values on the map are reported in CO2e 20 and CO2e 100. This allows one to view the potential amount of warming compared to carbon dioxide during a 20-year period as well as extrapolate to a 100-year period.
“Bottom line? Don’t be a villain of the environment. If you love your children and grandchildren and want to minimize global warming and protect animal, fish, plant and insect species from extinction, tell the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission and Gov. Mike DeWine to deny fracking in Ohio state parks and public lands.”
Three unnamed oil companies have applied to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to frack the Salt Fork State Park of Lore City, Ohio, which sits over Utica Shale. Applications to frack Wolf Run State Park, Valley Run and Zepernick wildlife areas and other public lands are also registered with ODNR.
The deadline to submit citizen comments to the ODNR’s Oil and Gas Land Management Commission (OGLMC), which is tasked with permitting or denying fracking, is Sept. 11 for the second Salt Fork State Park application and Sept. 12 for the Wolf Run application.
Save Ohio Parks, a statewide, all-volunteer organization dedicated to stopping fracking under Ohio state parks and public lands, urges people to send personal letters explaining why fracking should not be allowed to Commission.Clerk@oglmc.ohio.gov.
Climate TRACE uses satellite measurements, including the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROMPOMI) satellite instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite. Climate TRACE utilizes direct measurements and artificial intelligence from more than 80,000 established scientific and research and data sources to construct a map of the major greenhouse gas emitters across the globe. These include electricity generation, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, waste and mineral extraction. Its website is: https://www.climatetrace.org.
More information on issues surrounding fracking and a list of state parks and areas to be fracked are on the Save Ohio Parks website at saveohioparks.org.