Despite hearing the pleas of 30 people not to approve legislation to permit oil and gas drilling on city-owned land, city council is expected today to support it.
Council had a public hearing Tuesday with 32 of the nearly 50 people in attendance speaking on the issue.
Only Tony Paglia, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s vice president of government and media affairs, and Mike Chadsey, director of Energy in Depth, a gas and oil industry outreach group, spoke in favor of the ordinance.
Mayor Charles Sammarone, who wasn’t at the hearing, recommends using money from the leasing for residential demolition and neighborhood improvements.
Paglia and Chadsey emphasized that point when discussing the legislation.
But plenty of others who spoke at the public hearing said short-term money, for what they contend are long-term health and environmental problems, isn’t worth the risk.
Lynn Anderson of Youngstown, a vocal opponent of fracking, told council members at the hearing: “You’re going to kill your citizens.”
Jean Engle of Youngstown, co-president of Treez Please, said, “When people start getting ill, know that you opened the door.”
Janet Bonner of Youngstown asked if council members were so “crazy for money” that they would do “something this stupid.”
A majority of the seven-member council already has said they’re going to vote today in favor of the plan.
Susie Beiersdorfer of Youngstown, a longtime opponent of fracking, said council was just “going through the motions” with the hearing as a decision already has been made.
Fracking is the process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.
Two council members — Mike Ray, D-4th, and Paul Drennen, D-5th — will vote against the proposal.
They want to permit the administration to seek offers for drilling, but not enter into a contract without council’s approval.
But the other five don’t support that.
“I understand it’s a highly sensitive issue,” said Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th. “All of council is concerned about safety. But we have to weigh everything.”
There is a “risk in anything you do,” but this is “an opportunity to get some money that we haven’t had before.”
Swierz and Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, said they’ve read a lot about gas and oil drilling, and approving this is best for the city.
The city has about 1,070 vacant homes that need to be demolished, but has money to take down only about 300 to 400 homes, Sammarone has said.
The city has about 400 acres usable for drilling, said Finance Director David Bozanich.
No one from the administration was at council’s public hearing. Sammarone said before the hearing that he’s heard it all before and there’s no reason to hear it again.