By AMY GAREIS                                                                                                                                    News-Herald Staff Writer

HOPEDALE – As the presence of oil and gas drilling increases in the area, Harrison County residents can get their questions answered during an upcoming meeting.

The Harrison County Farm Bureau is holding an informational forum on Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Hopedale Social Hall for landowners who are thinking of signing leases or those who have existing oil and gas well leases.

In recent months, gas companies have been approaching rural residents throughout the Tri-State area seeking access to their land for drilling the wells. Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Director Michele Specht, who represents Harrison and other surrounding counties, said the purpose is to make people more knowledgeable about the issue. Sessions have been held in Belmont, Carroll and Jefferson counties thus far, and this is the first such gathering in Harrison.

“There are some oil and gas companies that are coming into the counties wanting to lease land for drilling. Before people sign a lease, it’s good for them to have the information they need to make a good decision,” said Specht. “This forum gives them an opportunity to ask questions concerning oil and gas drilling.”

Speakers that evening will include Ohio Farm Bureau Director of Energy Dale Arnold and representatives from Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Mineral Resources Management, while resource information is available about recent inquiries on property leases from the Marcellus Shale in eastern Ohio. The main concerns at surrounding sessions were monetary benefits and environmental issues, and a question-and-answer session will be held to respond to such queries.

Organizers said the seminar would focus on points to consider when negotiating the leases. Specht said it is the individual landowner’s decision whether to sign a lease; the forum just provides tools before they make the choice.

“We have a lot of people interested because gas and oil companies come in and offer different amounts on leases. Here, people can ask specific questions about oil and gas wells.”

No reservations are required for the forum. For more information, please contact the Harrison County Farm Bureau office at 740-945-0386.