Liberty plans to study its right to ban drilling

By Robert Guttersohn


The 2011 earthquakes that hit this area convinced Liberty officials that now is the time to control gas- and injection-well drilling in the township.

At Monday’s organizational meeting, the township trustees plan to approve a resolution authorizing legal counsel to research whether the township has any legal chance of banning drilling in residential areas that rely on well water.

It would be the township’s first step in eventually attempting to control all injection wells, gas wells and fracking.

Injection wells are used to dispose of wastewater from gas and oil drilling, including fracking, a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted through pipes into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.

The township has no injection wells but has three gas wells in its northern portion, said Trustee Jodi Stoyak.

“We’re challenging the Ohio law by doing this,” said Stoyak, who is championing the resolution and has been a strong advocate for banning fracking and injection wells.

In 2004, the state Legislature passed House Bill 278 giving sole regulatory authority on gas and oil drilling to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The future resolution, township officials said, would also urge state lawmakers to pass a statewide moratorium on drilling to allow a study of drilling’s safety.

“We all want job creation,” said township Administrator Pat Ungaro. Injection well drilling “may create a lot of jobs, but obviously it’s creating a problem. The last [earthquake] I think really woke everyone up.”

Liberty is one of the first townships in the state to ask for a ban, Stoyak said.

In Hubbard Township, where an injection well is planned for construction, Trustee Fred Hanley said the township tried to ban the well and wrote to Gov. John Kasich, but nothing has worked.

But the difference between Hubbard and Liberty is that Liberty is a home-rule township, allowing it to assert more zoning control than a normal township.

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