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Drilling craze has variety of Mahoning Valley entities weighing their options



Published: Sun, February 19, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Karl Henkel

khenkel@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Mill Creek MetroParks isn’t alone when it tries to determine drilling activities on its property. Other local municipalities and large- property holders also are weighing their options.

Drillers have approached cemeteries, school districts and even golf courses to sign oil and gas leases, or modify the remnants of past leases.

Andrew Grischow, head of golf course and restaurant operations at Bedford Trails Golf Course in Coitsville, said the 175-acre course is mulling its options with its attorneys — and that the situation hasn’t been pretty.

“This whole thing has been such a mess,” he said. “It’s been such a nightmare for a lot of people in terms of information.

“We’re just trying to sort through the information and make the right decision.”

Mahoning County records show Bedford Trails mineral rights has switched hands more than once, complicating the process for golf-course officials.

The legal dilemma is just one hiccup in the incredibly complex world of mineral rights.

Columbiana County has refrained from leasing county land because it, the city of East Liverpool and Buckeye Water District are embroiled in a dispute.

The water district owes East Liverpool about $4.8 million; the city filed suit after it believed the county leased its land, claiming it should recoup any monies from bonus payments or royalties to pay off the multimillion dollar balance.

The county, though, will lease its 568 acres of land, said commissioner Jim Hoppel.

“We’re going to end up leasing our land,” said Hoppel, who noted the county previously signed a letter-of-intent to lease its land but never followed through with the deal.

There also are potential ethical and moral issues related to drilling deals.

Drillers have approached two Poland cemeteries about drilling horizontally underneath property.

Trustee Chairman Mark Naples said in January he doesn’t think leasing cemetery land is a good idea.

“It’s a cemetery; it’s your last resting place,” he said.

There was seemingly no dilemma, however, when it came to Western Reserve schools, which last year leased its 114-acre plot of land to Chesapeake Energy Corp. for five years and will receive $2,250 per acre — more than $250,000 — in upfront bonus payments.

The lease came with special restrictions: A drilling operation can’t be within 500 feet of any facility — the standard distance is 300 feet — and Chesapeake cannot drill on the acreage’s protected grasslands.

“There’s not much on our property we could use with the football field and the schools,” said Charles Swindler, superintendent, who added he received little negative feedback.


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