July 1, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Oil, gas reps say area ground too thin for fracking, residents not convinced

MEDINA — Representatives of the oil and natural gas industry told a City Council committee that it is unlikely that any company would want to drill in the city.

Mike Chadsey, a spokesman for Energy in Depth Ohio, part of the Oil and Gas Association, said the Utica shale formation is too thin here for the controversial drilling method of hydraulic fracturing to be used profitably.

Bob Worstall, northern region supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, speaks at a Special Legislation Committee meeting of Medina City Council dealing with the issue of hydraulic fracturing. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

“It’s not going to happen in Medina County, whether you want it or not,” he said.

The hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” process involves injecting chemically treated water and sand under high pressure to break up shale, releasing oil and gas trapped in the rocks.

Bob Worstall, northern region supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, agreed that the amount of land required for large-scale drilling makes oil and gas development in the city unlikely.

Worstall said there is very little oil and gas drilling activity in Medina County.

One well in Harrisville Township employed horizontal drilling, but the well produced disappointing results for the company, Oklahoma-based Devon Energy, and has been plugged.

Worstall cautioned that the failure of one well wouldn’t necessarily mean another company wouldn’t try again.

The meeting was one of a series organized by at-large Councilman Bill Lamb, chairman of the Special Legislation Committee, to investigate how hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas drilling might affect Medina.

About 40 people attended Thursday’s meeting, which focused on the economic impact of oil and gas drilling and explained the hydraulic fracturing process.

Christopher Schultz, 23, a Medina resident, spoke up at the end of the meeting and objected that members of the audience weren’t allowed to ask questions or comment.

Schultz said he didn’t think it was appropriate that Lamb invited the community and didn’t permit time for residents to speak.

“I’m not necessarily concerned about profit or money,” he said. “I care about clean water and clean air.”

Lamb said he had a problem with the assumption that “any industry is all bad.” He said he hasn’t seen an outpouring from city residents demanding that fracking be banned. He said the public’s demand for energy is fueling the oil and gas boom.

Two local business owners who were invited to speak at the meeting said they would not like to see the city take a position against oil and gas drilling, arguing it would be bad for the economy in general.

“I feel that would be a black mark against the city and the businesses working in the city,” said Bruce Gold, president of Architectural Daylighting, a Medina manufacturer of skylights, canopies, window systems and solar shading devices.

Gold said that while his company does not directly supply the oil and gas drilling industry, many companies in the city do.

Mark Overholt, president of Tiger General, a Montville Township company that produces equipment and trucks used in oil and gas drilling, said he thought that anti-fracking activists did not want to make air and water safer.

“It’s about stopping fossil fuels,” he said. “They want to slow down and try to stop development of the most abundant energy source in America.”

David Steer, a geology and environmental sciences professor at the University of Akron, said the risks of hydraulic fracturing have to be weighed against the benefits.

Steer said it’s unlikely for the chemical additives used in fracking to find their way into aquifers, but it is unknown how different fractures interact with one another and existing mines.

“The oil company doesn’t want water in the gas, and they don’t want contamination,” he said at the meeting.

Medina isn’t the only city in the county that is talking about fracking.

Brunswick City Council on Monday considered a resolution to express disapproval of state laws that give the Ohio Department of Natural Resources the sole power to issue oil and gas drilling permits, including wells using hydraulic fracturing. Council will vote on the resolution at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Brunswick Mayor Gary Werner urged members to consider the economic issues involved before voting, saying a resolution against oil and gas drilling would deter economic development.

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