Natural Gas Graveyards

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted July 3, 2012

Would you allow your loved ones’ final resting place to be dug up for oil and natural gas? That’s the problem facing a lot of people in Lowelville Cemetery in eastern Ohio. Far beneath the graves lies, apparently, impressive quantities of natural gas.

And Ohio isn’t alone in this new and somewhat macabre situation. Cemeteries in Colorado and Mississippi are also being considered, as are parks and playgrounds, churches, and other unconventional locations.

Obviously, a lot of people are against the notion. But proponents of the daring suggestion claim that digging will occur at such a depth that it won’t actually disturb the graves.

The Youngstown area is already at the center of controversy over earthquakes that have been linked to fracking operations, and the town is seeking a full-on city-wide ban on all drilling.

Interestingly, cemetery plot owners don’t actually exert any rights over mineral resources that may be present below the grave. Their sole rights are to a prolonged “rental” at the surface level–basically, that their grave site be maintained as is. So, proponents of the drilling plan argue that as long as the actual grave site remains undisturbed, it is perfectly fine to go resource-hunting below that level.

The greatest dilemma facing Youngstown and other such places is the prospect of substantial revenue and even jobs that any drilling operation would inevitably bring with it. In these tough economic times, is it pure sentimentality to defy drilling propositions under graves, or will we have to think more coldly?

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