By jeanne starmack
City council will meet Monday morning to vote on whether to lease rights to oil and natural gas under city-owned property.
The special meeting will be at 10 a.m. in council chambers at the city building.
Lawmakers discussed the proposed lease in an executive, or closed, session Wednesday night.
Law Director Brian Macala would not say which gas company has offered to lease mineral rights under 167 acres of property. Those acres are not contiguous. They are scattered throughout the city, he said.
Macala also would not say how much the city has been offered in a signing bonus and in royalties from producing wells.
Gas companies looking to tap into natural gas in the Utica Shale, a rock formation several thousand feet below the ground, have been leasing property in eastern Ohio. They are using a controversial method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract the gas from the shale.
To frack the shale, companies drill a vertical well, then horizontal drills bore through the shale up to a mile away. Fracking fluid, a mixture of water, sand, salt and chemicals, is forced into the shale at high pressure to crack it and release the gas.
Some of that fracking fluid comes back to the surface, but much of it remains in the shale.
The method worries environmentalists who believe the fluid, which can contain toxins, can migrate into ground water if steel and cement well casings shrink, crack or are improperly constructed.
There is also the potential for accidents such as well blowouts and pipeline failures that could contaminate surface water and the ground with fracking fluid.
Companies need about 7 acres for a well pad, and several wells can be drilled at one pad.
People living near well sites have complained of noise and lights on all night as wells are being drilled.
Truck traffic is constant.
Macala said, however, that he does not believe there are enough contiguous acres in the city’s residential areas to accommodate a well pad.
He also said that the city’s zoning laws would keep well development out of residential areas.
That was also true in Pennsylvania until February, when the state Legislature took away local municipalities’ rights to keep gas-well development out of residential zones.
He said if a company were going to drill wells on city property, that property would likely be in the old industrial area between Wilson Avenue and the Mahoning River.
He also said there may also be enough property in the city’s urban renewal area to accommodate a well pad.
That area is bounded by Wilson Avenue at the bottom, Murray Avenue at the top and Washington and Jackson streets on the sides.