July 25, 2014

Medina
Mostly sunny
58°F

Brunswick approves oil, gas ‘drilling’ measure at meeting

BRUNSWICK — Residents came out strong at Monday night’s City Council meeting in support of a resolution protesting the lack of local control over oil and natural gas drilling.

Council responded by voting 6-1 to approve the resolution.

“I have to make a lot of difficult decisions as a Council member,” said Councilman Brian Ousley, at large. “Tonight is not one of them.”

The resolution puts the city on record opposing state laws that give the Ohio Department of Natural Resources the sole right to issue oil and gas drilling permits, including wells employing a controversial hydraulic fracturing process, better known as “fracking.”

Brunswick joins the cities of Akron, Cincinnati and Canton that have approved similar resolutions.

About two dozen city residents came out to support the resolution at Monday’s meeting, including a geology major and a health and wellness expert who both asked Council to pass the resolution.

Another Brunswick resident, Theresa Gottl, pleaded for passage of the resolution.

“For the sake of those you represent, please vote for this resolution,” she said.

Councilman Ron Falconi, at large, who is running unopposed for mayor, cast the only dissenting vote.

Falconi said he would support a resolution formally stating the city’s opposition to home rule, but that the measure approved Monday went too far and would be seen as “anti-business.”

The vote on the resolution had been postponed for several weeks after Mayor Gary Werner and members of the business community voiced concern that it would hurt Brunswick’s ability to attract new businesses.

John Welker, head of the Medina County Democratic Party and a Brunswick resident, argued that the resolution could be considered pro-business.

“What new business considering Brunswick would want to come in and put their business next to a well site,” Welker asked.

Welker said the resolution was justified as a protest to the state interfering with home-rule rights.

A resolution proposed at a Council committee meeting Monday specifically addressed the home-rule issue and is expected to be discussed at Council’s next meeting, March 11.

Falconi said he would support the new resolution.

“Everyone says this is about a home-rule issue,” Falconi said. “I wish that (resolution) was on the table.”

Three members of the business community spoke at Monday’s meeting in opposition to the resolution: Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp.; Ken Schlick of the Brunswick Area Chamber of Commerce; and Russell Schabel, chief financial officer of Philpott Rubber.

Schabel was standing in for Mike Baach, the CEO of Philpott, who had taken a leading role in opposing the resolution.

Philpott has an expanding stake in the drilling boom in Ohio through its subsidiary, PETCO, which supplies a chemical used in the drilling process.

Baach could not attend Monday’s meeting because he was in Asia this week on business.

But in phone text message after the meeting, Baach said he was disappointed by the vote, adding: “Philpott management must now consider its various options. We must do what’s right for our employees, shareholders, suppliers and, most of all, our customers.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.