June 27, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Medina tackles fracking issue for the first time

MEDINA — City Council tackled the controversial issue of fracking for the first time Tuesday.

About 40 people attended the special Legislation Committee meeting, which featured several speakers, including residents from Broadview Heights who succeeded in getting a charter amendment passed to ban new oil and gas drilling in their city.

Tish O’Dell, a Broadview Heights resident, spoke to a Medina City Council committee Tuesday about how drilling affected her community. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

Tish O’Dell, a Broadview Heights resident and co-founder of Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods, said oil and gas wells were drilled next to a picnic pavilion, next to a playground and on City Hall property in her community.

“With 90 wells in Broadview Heights, we have not seen an economic boom,” O’Dell said.
She said urban wells have caused lower property values, pollution and increased traffic in Broadview Heights.

Pat Volk, another Broadview Heights resident, said, “I like my petrochemicals just as much as anyone in this room, but we need to find a safer way to extract them from the ground.”

Although the wells in Broadview Heights are traditional oil and gas wells, Medina officials said they are concerned about wells that use the new technology of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.

At-large Councilman Bill Lamb, chairman of the Special Legislation Committee, said the purpose of the meeting is “to gain insight from a variety of sources regarding possible issues that could arise if drilling occurred within our jurisdiction, as well as consideration of the likelihood of drilling occurring at all, due to our local geology.”

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, particles and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to break up shale and release oil and natural gas.

Also speaking a the meeting was an oil and gas industry representative, who was invited by At-large Councilman Paul Rose.

Mike Chadsey, of Energy In Depth, part of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said there is only one well in Medina County that employs horizontal drilling and fracking.

He said the well, in Harrisville Township, owned by Devon Energy, produced disappointing results and may be capped.

“I wouldn’t foresee any future companies coming in to do horizontal drilling,” he said.

Lamb said he planned to discuss fracking with members of the Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce, and meet with City Council members from communities around Ohio.

Two more committee meetings are planned.

Lamb said the meeting in January will feature an explanation of the hydraulic fracturing process and insight into whether Medina geology is attractive to drillers.

In February, the committee will talk with state officials about the issue of home rule and regulation of drilling, Lamb said.

Questions from the public will follow both future meetings.

The city may be limited in how much it can regulate oil and gas drilling. According to recent state law, Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources “has the sole and exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations within the state,” Medina Law Director Greg Huber wrote in a memo to the committee.

Huber wrote that some municipalities in Ohio have tried to pass ordinances that regulate oil and gas wells. But those efforts have been challenged in court by the energy companies.

“It would appear that the energy industry has been aggressive in litigating the validity of these local regulations.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.