“As long as there is potential for a risk — not a manageable risk — we should be concerned,” Councilman Larry Slagle said, calling the terms of the agreement “deficient.”
Councilman Dave McCune said wells don’t belong in residential areas or in the city’s downtown.
“I don’t support turning my city into an oil field,” he said.
Ohio Valley had asked the city to sign a 10-year lease agreement for 52.5 acres of city-owned land to be part of a bigger drilling area. It planned to drill two wells on the Towne Plaza property and one well at the Masonic Lodge on Second Street SE. The nondevelopment lease, which restricted Ohio Valley from stepping foot on city-owned land, would have given the city a $50,000 signing bonus and 12.5 percent of royalties.
Only Councilmen Paul Manson and Donnie Peters supported the ordinance. Ron Mang was absent. Slagle and five others rejected the agreement, which prompted applause from city resident Renee Bogue.
Bogue had urged council to go even further in denouncing gas and oil drilling. During a public meeting scheduled prior to council’s regular meeting, Bogue again asked council to ban “fracking” on city-owned property.
“We need to recognize that drilling is not worth the risk,” said Bogue, who went through a laundry list of potential hazards and nuisances — everything from truck traffic to toxic chemicals being released into water supplies. “We need to use our common sense.”
Michael Baughman of the group TASK (Take Action Spread Knowledge) warned that the lease could be sold or transfered to another company that could potentially drill beyond the Clinton Sandstone formation.
Bonnie Foster of the Austintown-based Ohio Valley said the company was willing, based on recommendations by a supporter of gas drilling and concern from Baughman and others, to amend the lease so that council would have approval before a lease could be transfered. She also was willing to add language that limited the drilling to the Clinton formation.
Robert J. Dervin II, a Massillon resident and petroleum geologist with 29 years of experience in Ohio, said there was a lot of confusion, specifically over the use of water in the fracking process.
Fracturing, or fracking, is a common process used in well drilling that involves breaking a geological formation to reach pockets of oil or natural gas.
Though Ohio has been drilling and fracking wells for more than 50 years, the gas and oil industry recently has set its sights on shale formations, specifically Marcellus and Utica shale.
To frack shale, the oil industry in recent years developed a new and controversial process called horizontal hydraulic fracking that involves millions of gallons of water and chemicals. Environmentalists worry that the process could endanger sources of drinking water.
Dervin, who has designed, engineered and supervised 380 fractured wells, said about 50 percent of the water used to frack a well comes back through the well, while the other half is confined to the porous spaces of the rock. In conventional wells, he said water, sand and potash is used, but not benzene, chloroforms or other chemicals that have been used to frack shale.
“There seems to be lots of confusion,” said Dervin, adding that fracking has not caused any problems in Ohio, even though other parts of the process — such as concrete casings — have.
Chris Perry, the energy resources supervisor of the Ohio Geological Survey, a division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which issues drilling permits in the state,
“I’m not surprised there is a lot of concern,” Perry said. “For people who aren’t familiar with the technology and processes that are being utilized it seems frightening. But for people who have industry experience ... we have much more confidence.”
Perry reiterated that the wells being proposed by Ohio Valley were not unique in any way to Ohio.
“This is a fairly conventional undertaking that is being proposed,” he said.
Rosendo Fuquen, a Hills and Dales resident who holds a doctorate in fracture mechanics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the oil and gas industry needs to be held to the same standards as the automotive and aerospace industries.
Unlike a faulty part on a vehicle that can be recalled by the manufacturer, an error in the fracking process is “irreversible.”
“What you are dealing with now is one failure or two failures in a hundred (wells) in the fracking process, which means you would have 20,000 failures in a million,” he said. “The process you are dealing with is not reliable.”
Others, like southeast-side residents Jim Woods and Mike Basiewicz, were concerned about placing a well so close to a residential neighborhood. Ohio Valley is gathering signatures for a separate well that is planned for Marion Avenue. They’re concerned about the possibility of having a well 150 feet from their property.
“It’s just a ploy,” Woods said of the lease agreements that have been offered to him and others. “It’s just a trick. I guess they don’t think we know what’s going on.”