Commissioner working toward drilling safety

LISBON – Columbiana County Commissioner Tim Weigle said he has been following through on a campaign pledge made two years ago to help the county better prepare for potential problems resulting from the drilling boom.

“I can’t say that it’s something that has been completely fulfilled on my end, but working through Luke and the EMA we’re heading in that direction,” Weigle said, referring to Luke Newbold, director of the county Emergency Management Agency.

Weigle was a Unity Township trustee when elected county commissioner in 2012, and one of his campaign promises was to ensure local oil and gas development is managed in a manner that protects public health and safety.

“I began talking to Luke about things I thought we should be doing, and he agreed,” Weigle said. Newbold arrived on the job about the same time Weigle took office.

As a result, Newbold began attending various safety training seminars for responding to oil and gas drilling related accidents, fires and spills. The intention is to receive the necessary certification so Newbold can serve as an instructor and conduct the same training sessions for local firefighters, police officers and other public safety personnel.

“He has already gotten a lot of these certifications” and Newbold is scheduled to attend a training session at the end of July hosted by Norfolk Southern Railway, Weigle said. This session is about how to respond to an accident involving rail cars specifically transporting shale oil or gas.

“Each time he will be able to take that back and give that to our safety forces,” Weigle said.

Newbold said they hosted several training events for fire departments and other first responders alone. Chesapeake Exploration has assisted in five response training sessions over the past year.

The EMA has also been compiling a list of contact cell phone numbers from each drilling company operating in the county, as well as companies installing the gathering pipelines. Weigle said these contact numbers will connect them to people who can get them answers immediately should there be an accident that might jeopardize public health or safety.

One of those contacts is Eric Mize of M3 Midstream, which is one of the partners in the Utica East Ohio Midstream gas collection and processing plant in Kensington. “We can reach him just about any time and don’t have to go to three people” to get an answer, Weigle said.

Getting solid contact names numbers for Chesapeake Exploration, which has the most leased property and drilling permits in the county, has been a bit more difficult since the company underwent a major shakeup in March 2013, Weigle said

A CD of these contacts, which also includes safety information and pipeline routes, has been available to fire departments, and the plan is to get copies to other safety personnel, Weigle said.