Poland officials mull leasing land

By Ashley Luthern



Village council members continued to research and discuss the possibility of leasing village-owned land for oil-and-natural gas exploration Tuesday.

About 20 people attended the council meeting. Among them was Linda Bartley of Western Land Services who offered council a sample lease, and representatives of Youngstown-based Sulmona Energy LLC, which is seeking permission from council to negotiate a lease with an oil- and natural-gas-drilling company on behalf of the village.

The drilling compan-ies that have approached the village are interested in fracking wells. Fracking is a process in which a mix of water, sand and chemicals are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to extract natural gas and oil. The brine waste product from that process is then disposed of in injection wells.

The majority of village-owned land is the Poland Municipal Forest, a 265-acre wooded area donated to the village by the Butler family in the 1930s.

Many in the crowd urged council to take its time making a decision.

“I like the discussion taking place. I think it is important to go slow. If something happens, we can never get it back — not the way Mother Nature had it,” said Gordon Longmuir, a member of The Poland Forest Foundation.

Councilman Robert Limmer said he is concerned about possible consequences of drilling for gas or oil, such as water pollution, earthquakes that some critics have linked to brine-injection wells, village liability (being sued for any damages) and possible personal liability of council members.

Mayor Tim Sicafuse said it would be wise to look at a lease, whether the village administration brokers it or uses an outside company such as Sulmona, and see what is being offered.

“The estate tax is going away. The Local Government Fund is disappearing. We have to look at these things,” Sicafuse said.

If council does seek to enter a leasing agreement, it would have to draft an ordinance, which must have three readings and likely a public hearing, too, before approval, Sicafuse said.

Poland resident Lance Karns offered personal experience with natural -as leasing.

“My family has a 400-acre dairy farm in Pennsylvania. I can take you there to show you the effects of natural-gas drilling. You won’t see anything different. We’ve had no problems with the ground water,” Karns said.

He said he understood the concerns but suggested the village structure a protective lease that has provisions such as no drilling in the forest.

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