Whether to drill for that gas is causing soul-searching as cemeteries — including veterans’ final resting places in Colorado and Mississippi — join parks, playgrounds, churches and residential backyards among the ranks of places targeted in the nation’s shale drilling boom.
Opponents say cemeteries are hallowed ground that shouldn’t be sullied by drilling activity they worry will be noisy, smelly and unsightly. Defenders say the drilling is so deep that it doesn’t disturb the cemetery and can generate revenue to enhance the roads and grounds.
“Most people don’t like it,” said 70-year-old Marilee Pilkington, who lives down the road from the cemetery in rural Poland Township and whose father, brother, nephew and niece are all buried there.
“I think it’s a dumb idea because I wouldn’t want anyone up there disturbing the dead, No. 1, and, No. 2, I don’t like the aspect of drilling,” she said.
Township trustees received a proposal this year to lease cemetery mineral rights for $140,000, plus 16 percent of any royalties, for any oil and gas. Similar offers soon followed at two other area cemeteries.
Longtime Trustee Mark Naples felt the same way as Pilkington when the issue arose — despite the fact $140,000 could cover the cemetery’s budget, minus road maintenance, for more than 20 years.