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Council may rescind ordinance banning oil and gas drilling

Published: Tue, September 10, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

Ordinance may violate state and federal laws

By Jordan Cohen



Niles City Council, which less than three weeks ago unanimously passed an ordinance banning oil and gas drilling activity within city limits, is on the verge of rescinding the ordinance.

Council has learned that much of it may violate Ohio and federal laws, and possibly keep the city from selling its own water.

“I’m seriously considering bringing up rescinding it,” said Councilman Steve Papalas, D-at large, after chairing a lengthy and sometimes heated roundtable meeting Monday in which one representative of the oil and gas industry said he did not believe the ordinance could stand up against a court challenge.

Shawn Bennett, field director for Energy In Depth, an outreach group funded by the oil and gas industry, told council that the Niles ban violates state law, which gives the authority for well permits solely to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The ordinance is modeled on the Community Bill of Rights, an anti-drilling bill adopted by a number of municipalities to block drilling in general and extraction from shale using the hydraulic fracturing method or “fracking” in particular.

“There are unintended consequences in the Community Bill of Rights,” Bennett said. As an example, he cited a provision that bars storing or transporting “produced” water through the city.

“This would stop the city from selling water to energy companies or to other municipalities,” Bennett said. “If you do that, you would be in violation of your own ordinance.”

He also said another provision that declares the city “free of chemical trespass” could force it to shut down its own power plant.

“Niles council is closed for business,” Bennett said.

Council acted last month after receiving an e-mail from John Williams, an anti-fracking activist, who warned of imminent drilling operations planned along Robbins Avenue. Papalas told The Vindicator earlier, however, that he believed that the area is too congested for drilling because a five-acre clearance for a well pad is required — an amount of space unavailable in neighborhoods on Robbins Avenue, according to the councilman.

Williams, who attended the roundtable, was not convinced. “They’re coming to Niles and I’m begging do not rescind the ordinance,” he shouted. Several members of Frack-Free Mahoning, an anti-drilling group, also voiced support for the ordinance.

After the meeting, Mayor Ralph Infante said he is still opposed to drilling in neighborhoods but agreed that council needs to discuss the ordinance in its entirety. Infante, however, stopped short of supporting its repeal.

“I think some parts may need to be rescinded,” he said.


1UticaShale(854 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

Mahoning and Trumbull counties sit on the wet gas zone of the Utica shale. It is the most valuable portion of the Marcellus and Utica formation today. The highest bonuses ($5K-$6K)for an acre have been paid for thousands of acres here, not just farm acreage but City and suburban parcels.

Based on reported production reports, each acre in the Utica wet gas zone will produce a minimum of $1000 per month. Approximately 10 City parcels equals an acre. This windfall for the smallest of land could be $100 per month, enough to pay property taxes and some. The voter must be made aware what is at stake financially for them.

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2zorrogirl(12 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

"This would stop the city from selling water to energy companies or to other municipalities,” Bennett said. “If you do that, you would be in violation of your own ordinance.”

Wrong. Doesn't meant that at all. Produced water in this context is water that is a by-product of oil and gas drilling.

It would not prevent Niles from selling their own water. That is nonsense.

That ordinance is not a violation of state law as it is civil rights based.

You folks need to decide if your health and welfare is more important than money. There is a town in TX already sucked dry by drillers. 30 more towns will be out of water by years end. Wonder how much they'll have to pay for water now? T Boone Pickens bought up all the water he could and for good reason. It will be more valuable than oil. I left OH last year to get away from this fracking mess. So glad to be in a progressive are that values their environment. Lots of money to be made in renewable energy folks. Don't be misled. It's being done in Germany and places right here in the US. OH doesn't need that frack filth.

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3bcdevellin(8 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

I'm no expert but fracking can't be good for the environment or community.

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