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Youngstown council to weigh fracking resolution

Published: Fri, September 14, 2012 @ 12:08 a.m.

By David Skolnick



The mayor is asking city council to support a resolution urging the state to have “stringent regulations” on fracking while also seeking council’s approval to sell the city’s mineral rights.

Mayor Charles Sammarone’s resolution calls for the city to support oil and gas drilling, as permitted by the state, as long as Ohio officials “respect local concerns by protecting the citizens of Youngstown through stringent and effective regulation, and immediately respond to any and all inquiries from city of Youngstown government officials.”

Council will consider the resolution and the mineral-rights proposal at its next meeting, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Sammarone said state officials have done a good job keeping city officials informed about fracking issues in Youngstown since the Dec. 31 earthquake here that led to the state’s closing a brine-injection well in the city and a temporary ban on those wells.

“In the beginning, the state wasn’t receptive to our complaints but has since stepped in and put a stop to the problems,” he said.

When asked to comment on Sammarone’s resolution, Heidi Hetzel-Evans, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said: “The ODNR has been busy the last few months developing rules and regulations on oil and gas drilling and inspecting well disposals.”

Some of the new rules, including requiring seismic testing near injection wells, came about because of the earthquakes in Youngstown, she said.

“Ohio has one of the strictest oil and gas [policies] in the country,” Hetzel-Evans said.

Because the state has control over licensing fracking — a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil — Sammarone said the resolution is equivalent to sending a “letter” to Ohio officials.

The mayor says he tells fracking protesters that objecting in the city and speaking at council meetings doesn’t help their cause because the state makes decisions on drilling.

“They’re wasting their time here; go picket Columbus to change the state law,” Sammarone said.

If the mayor could control all laws in the city, he said he’d make the Covelli Centre a casino, reinstitute residency requirements for city employees and have control over the renewal of liquor licenses.

Also, Sammarone said he’ll ask council at its Wednesday meeting to permit the administration to sell its mineral rights to raise more money for demolition and neighborhood improvement projects.

There are 1,070 dilapidated residential structures in the city that need to be demolished now — and about 3,900 vacant houses in Youngstown — and the $2 million the city is using for demolition will take down only about 270 structures, he said.

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