Residents say they have a right to know what is happening
By Elise Franco
Mahoning Valley residents still are worried that Mill Creek MetroParks officials aren’t being completely forthcoming about the issue of hydraulic fracturing on park property.
The park board of commissioners and Clarke Johnson, executive director, said, however, that their stance on the issue hasn’t changed, and they’ve been as transparent as possible.
A crowd of about 30 people gathered Monday at the MetroParks Farm in Canfield for the board’s regular meeting, where the majority of those in attendance had fracking on their minds.
Kelly Burcsak of Canfield said she lives about one mile away from an injection well recently erected at Western Reserve and Knauf roads.
“In the last two months, I have not slept because you can hear that rig all night long,” she said.
Burcsak said that well isn’t on park land but it is an example of what will happen to the park if fracking is allowed.
Fracking is a drilling technique that involves vertical drilling several thousand feet down, then horizontal drilling as far as a mile away into the Utica Shale. After the drilling, millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are forced into the shale at high pressure to crack it, which makes the gas easier to extract.
Board President Robert Durick said the board is no closer to a decision than it was last fall when the issue of fracking began taking center stage at the public meetings.
“We have not talked to any [oil and gas companies], not one iota,” Durick said. “Nothing has changed.”
But many residents aren’t convinced the board is telling them everything.
Diana Shaheen of Boardman said when the park board leased mineral rights in the 1980s it didn’t have the park and residents’ best interests in mind.
Shaheen said the current board likely is feeling pressure from oil and gas companies to change well leases to favor those companies. She said the residents have the right to know if this is happening.
“It’s the responsibility of the board to represent the citizens by being completely transparent about their talks with the gas companies,” Shaheen said.
Lynn Anderson of Youngstown also discussed public records regarding old wells in and around the park.
Anderson said Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy LLC has purchased the deep-drilling rights for wells around the park’s perimeter, and three wells located on Idora Park land, near Lanterman’s Mill in Youngstown, recently were pooled to create more acreage for drilling purposes.
Anderson said records show that Chesapeake will perform ground-water testing on these and other wells.
Johnson and Durick said the board has no recourse for drilling that occurs on property not belonging to the park, such as the wells in Idora Park.
“Everybody is up in arms over this, but it’s not our property,” Durick said.
Johnson said the park did receive requests from Everflow Eastern Partners LP of Canfield to do ground-water testing on wells inside the park, but the testing will not occur.
According to a letter dated Aug. 9 from Chesapeake to the board, “testing is not warranted because there are no water sources located” on the six parcels of MetroParks land that they inquired about.
“We have no wells to test on those specific properties,” Johnson said.
Johnson and board members have maintained for nearly a year that there is no imminent threat of fracking on park-owned property. Johnson said the board will have public hearings before any type of decision is made.