Small town Caledonia, MS, (population: 1,041) said yes to more energy. The town’s Board of Alderman voted to allow horizontal drilling within their city limits. While this isn’t a lucrative business deal and no drilling has taken place, this is somewhat symbolic of Mississippi’s acceptance of energy projects, while similar projects are being shut out in other parts of the country (see New York state). (Fun fact: the first horizontal well in the state was two miles west of Caledonia in Maple Branch.)
While board attorney Jeff Smith said the lease does not necessarily mean the company will drill, this is still a significant event as horizontal drilling has come under fire recently with the shale explosion- which some could argue has saved the U.S. economy. Even Hollywood has given its two cents with Promised Land, a film that depicts a fictional small town struggling with the issue of whether or not to allow a corporation to come in and do horizontal drilling in exchange for lucrative leases. For the record, I have seen the film and was pleasantly surprised to find that in the end the villain isn’t who the commercials and propaganda have you to believe. After conducting research as to why this seemingly anti-fracking film contained such an un-even, out of nowhere plot twist, I discovered that the screenwriters re-wrote the ending last minute after the EPA issued a report that it had mistakenly determined water in Dismock, Pennsylvania to be contaminated by horizontal drilling in the area (the fictional small town portrayed in the film is said to be based on Dismock.)
Regardless of Hollywood’s failed critique and the EPA’s latest report, anti-drilling supporters continue to claim that the process contaminates drinking water.
Ed Hollingsworth, a geologist with Fletcher Petroleum who has been in the industry since 1981, said he has yet to see drinking water contaminated by horizontal drilling.
“I’ve been involved with probably 100 or so wells in the water basin, probably 90-99 percent of them have been fracked, and I’m not aware of one complaint from any surface owner that we damaged city, town or individual water wells.
“I think that’s a pretty good record,” he said
In addition to the state’s good record, it’s reasonable to assume that the board also realizes the positive economic impact the industry could have on that area as well as the introduction of countless job opportunities. Also, in small town Mississippi, people understand the benefits of more energy – it means good job opportunities for a family member or a neighbor down the street.
Horizontal drilling has been around in Mississippi for 60 years and hasn’t traditionally run into much in-state opposition, and this move by the Caledonia board is just another example of why energy companies should consider locating to Mississippi, a state aptly referred to as the Hospitality State.