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Youngstown council delays vote on drilling



Published: Thu, September 20, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.

youngstown

Members want more time to discuss oil, gas drilling in the city

By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

City council postponed a vote to seek proposals from companies interested in leasing city-owned land for oil and gas drilling even though a majority of members favor it.

Some council members said Wednesday that they wanted more time to discuss the issue before making a decision.

Mayor Charles Sammarone’s proposal to lease city-owned land for drilling brought a standing-room-only crowd of about 70 people, who oppose the legislation, to council chambers.

But council already decided beforehand not to vote on the ordinance at Wednesday’s meeting. At its finance committee meeting, just before the full meeting, council agreed to wait at least until its next meeting, Oct. 3, before voting.

Councilmen Mike Ray, D-4th, and Paul Drennen, D-5th, said they haven’t made a decision on the mayor’s proposal, and wanted to obtain more information.

The five other members of council said they support Sammarone’s proposal.

For legislation to pass by emergency measure, six council members have to vote in favor of it. If not, legislation can be approved after readings at as many as three meetings by a majority vote.

The city desperately needs money to demolish about 1,070 dilapidated residential houses immediately, Sammarone said. The money obtained from leasing city-owned land for drilling would be used for demolition and neighborhood improvement projects, he said.

“I’m trying to come up with ideas to solve the demolition problem,” Sammarone said.

Sammarone said he proposed this idea to council members about four or five weeks ago and no one objected to it.

Ray said he doesn’t “recall a specific discussion on this issue with” Sammarone.

The mayor disputes that.

While Sammarone yelled at times when discussing the proposal with council members at the finance committee, he said he is “not mad. I’ve had this happen before. You don’t take it personally.”

Residents on the city’s East Side already are selling drilling rights, and it is the state and not the city that makes decisions on approving drilling in Youngstown, Sammarone pointed out.

The mayor added that those who oppose fracking should concentrate their efforts on lobbying state officials as the city has no say in issuing drilling permits.

“I tell the frackers, ‘How many times can you come here to complain?’” he said.

“The state controls this. Camp in [Gov. John] Kasich’s backyard.”

The city owns about 4,000 acres, but realistically could lease about 300 to 800 acres, said city Finance Director David Bozanich.

The city could receive up to $5,000 an acre plus 20-percent royalties on the drilling, he said.

Council members said they received telephone calls before Wednesday’s meeting from people opposing this plan.

Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, described them as “crazy calls,” while Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th, called them “obnoxious calls.”

Three people who object to oil and gas drilling spoke at Wednesday’s meeting.

Before they spoke, a woman in the crowd was escorted out of the meeting by security when she started yelling at council.

Also, state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, spoke, saying he opposes injection wells and not fracking, but added: “I’m leaning more and more to opposing all of it” because the oil and gas industry — which he contends “has bought the Ohio Legislature” — isn’t forthcoming about what it does.

Sammarone left the meeting during the public- comment portion and attended a Civil Service Commission meeting, also in city hall.

“How many times can you hear people who are against fracking?” he said after the meeting.

“I’ve heard it before. I’m against prostitution. How many times can I say that?”

Jean Engle of Youngstown, co-president of Treez Please, an organization that plants trees and promotes the increased use of green space in the city, said Sammarone has no right to seek to lease city land because that property belongs to the citizens.

Tom Cvetkovich of Youngstown, a member of Frackfree Mahoning Valley, said no amount of money is worth the risk of fracking.

After the meeting, Cvetkovich said he is pleased they are postponing the vote will conduct further discussion.

“I understand it’s very difficult” to decide, he said.

Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, who spoke Tuesday at a council public-utilities committee, said in a Wednesday telephone interview that postponing the vote is “an extremely responsible decision on behalf of council. It’s extremely responsible for them to want to take their time. They’re going to great lengths to hear both sides.”

Ohio Oil and Gas Energy is a public outreach organization that promotes awareness of the oil and gas industry.


Comments

1UticaShale(850 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

On the southside of Youngstown, 40 acre Clinton well units have generated energy for decades and are already held by production, leased. There exist these wells also on the westside, surrounding the Youngstown portion of Mill Creek Park. These units are now in the hands of Chesapeake (US) and Total of France. On the eastside of Youngstown where vast acreage in Youngstown exist, majority of the larger acreage also have been leased for horizontal drilling.
The largest landowner remaining unleased is the City and will be required for the drilling units to be consolidated. What the City and County have not yet understood and must be educated on is that thousands of abandoned vacant lots are interspersed between the larger pieces and will ultimately prevent drilling units to be developed rendering zero production. The energy companies currently pulled out of Youngstown most likely for this reason. Yes, the Council and Mayor need to study this proposal and understand this problem. In summation, the City may approve leasing but no energy company may lease because the abandoned City lots at present cannot be leased.
Mahoning county is the only county in eastern Ohio that sold the tax liens on these abandoned lots placing them in limbo. The brand new County landbank has the legislation now to clear these lots for leasing but is flatly incapable and uneducated on how to clear thousands of dead parcels through their system. Only the private sector with a joint venture is capable of running the lots through the court system but Yemma remains silent and uncertain and has taken the "do nothing approach" with Flora the new Landbank Czar.
The Mayor is a true leader by trying to bring in the global private energy companies and Yemma must do the same and follow his leadership. Sweirze who represents the City on the Landbank board too, remains silent.
This is a rare moment in Youngstown's history wherein the City has a one time chance to resurrect Youngstown's industrial past and make Youngstown an industrial giant once again. Funds for demolition? How about the complete transformation from a third world City to a an energy GIANT.

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2johnyoung(240 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

As I've mentioned in previous posts on different topics, Youngstown City Council members typically vote based on which way the wind happens to be blowing at the time of the vote. If there had instead been a room full of people who support fracking, you can bet they would have approved the Mayor's proposal.

These folks are just pitiful, and are one of the greatest impediments to Youngstown's future progress. An independent and informed thought of any relevance has not come out of city council chambers in many years. The voters need to consider the performance of their elected officials before casting their votes in the next election.

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3GeorgeinYoungstown(76 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

The Mayor gave an impassioned defense of his stand regarding leasing the mineral rights, because, as he repeatedly stated, "It's about MONEY! The City needs MONEY!"

For the past year or so, we've heard repeatedly from multiple sources (local/state officials, the Chamber of Commerce, Gas/Oil Industry reps, members of academia, etc), that the "shale boom" is coming, it's going to create new business opportunities, therefore flooding the City coffers with unimaginable riches, creating thousands of jobs that will create a massive need for HOUSING in the City, therefore eliminating the need for home demolition, since the homes will be needed for the many new shale industry workers, and the enormous new tax/revenue base they will provide!

So which is it?
Either the shale "boom" is going to save the day, or there is no foreseeable source of funding for the City, so the City has no other recourse than to lease its mineral rights (some would say, "sell our soul to the devil").

What's the REAL truth?
Either the Mayor is being disingenuous and has an ulterior motive, or, the entire shale "boom" is really a bust, and our public officials know this, because - guess what - both of these things can't be true...someone is lying to us, and the truth will out in time...
...hopefully not before it's too late.

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4sue(169 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Sammarone impresses me more every day. I am glad he is willing to stand up to the blowhard Hagan. Hagan wants everyone on welfare so that they have to come to the government on their knees looking for a handout.

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5James_S(268 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Drill... but no fracking.

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6sue(169 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

James, not sure whether you were joking or not.
Most people get this confused. The entire process of obtaining the oil and gas is called DRILLING. FRACKING is one of the many steps in the drilling process. In other words, if you drill a well you will also be fracking. The commenter above "UticaShale" could probably explain this more in detail.

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7willinnyny(76 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

READ IT AND WEEP:

FRACKING: BOOM OR DOOM?

AMERICA'S HYDRAULIC FRACTURING GOLD RUSH PORTENDS THE GREATEST ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER OF A GENERATION

http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-09-1...

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8Tigerlily(476 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

The mayor wants to find ways to come up with money to solve the problem of demolition in Youngstown. That's good.

But you do not solve one problem by participating in the creation of another problem that will become more and more apparent a decade or more from now. That's kicking the can down the road to our children to deal with it while patting ourselves on the back about having solved or partially solved the problem of demolition.

I would rather have a wasteland of houses that need to be demolished (which can always be done, even if it is slow going) than a wasteland where our water system has been ruined by fracking and injection wells.

If you want to be informed, read the new report from Scientific American on fracking and injection wells:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/art...

It doesn't look good, people.

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9cambridge(2972 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

sue....I don't think UticaShale could explain it. I asked him/her a while ago why the industry was exempt from the "Clean Water" and "Clean Air" acts and got no response.

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10Ianacek(891 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

The City & the County have to turn their back on short termism in their financial thinking . Mass publicly funded demolitions will not solve anything .

Vacant tax delinquent lots & abandoned houses should have been sold long ago to the highest bidder . Now many lots are tangled up with tax liens .It should be treated as an urgent matter to untangle them & get them to sherrif's auction . I personally know of many abandoned tax delinquent houses that could be renovated , at least for rental if not sale at the moment , but the municipalities prefer to let them rot & continue contaminating neighborhoods while they try to finesse their Land Bank .

Gas lease money should be used to lower the income tax rate so that it ceases to be an obstacle to entrepreneurs . This reduction will lead to private money funding house rehabs , demos & redevelopment .

Blight is just a symptom of the real problem ; which won't be solved by squandering the gas money on demolitions .

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11UticaShale(850 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

If any of the anti fracking hipsters want to debate honestly, go to GoMarcellusshale.com , you will find geologist , engineers, scientist, academia, politicians and mostly landowners. Be forewarned, many from the occupier movement tried to debate and suffered intence smackdowns and humiliation, some were thrownout. Also, you have to use your real names and backup your arguments...this may mean none of the trolls here will attend.

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12JoeFromHubbard(981 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

> > “I tell the frackers, ‘How many times can you come here to complain?’” he said. < <

For the same reason that someone once gave about the Valley always voting Democratic and ending up with the short end of the stick:

They are stuck on stupid !

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