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Stow Council Wants Oil, Gas Well Control in Local Hands

City wants control over placement of oil and gas wells within city limits

Members of Stow City Council continued their push for control over oil and gas drilling Monday by acting on proposed legislation that would urge the state to give local communities authority over the industry.

Council's public improvements committee voted to put the resolution on Thursday night's regular council agenda for a vote.

The legislation reads, in part, that the city is "requesting that Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio state legislature move swiftly to return reasonable and necessary local control to municipalities pertaining to the placement of oil and gas urban drilling."

Specifically, the resolution seeks to give local officials authority to determine placement of oil and gas wells within city limits.

Councilman John Pribonic said the resolution does not actually establish any new laws or regulations — and it doesn't just pertain to churches.

"This really is only stating that we want to return local ownership and decision making to the local authorities … that being Stow City Council," he said.

Pribonic of course was referring to a vertically fractured natural gas well on property owned by the Church of New Hope on S.R. 91 south of Commerce Drive.

The well is owned by Illinois-based PEP Drilling and has been cleared by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to start producing natural gas for market.

Pribonic conceded that the well was in part responsible for this new legislation.

Elyse Hirsch, a Stow resident organizing with others who oppose the well, said the legislation may have no teeth but it does send a message to Ohio legislators.

"In my view, whether your pro-drilling, anti-drilling …. Local control is something we need to keep a dialogue going about oil and gas and where it would best fit in our communities," Hirsch said.

Crestdale Drive resident Jan Hyne said the well's proximity to several neighborhoods poses a potential safety risk.

"Our country was founded on the ethics of states’ rights, that the government couldn’t make decisions for all," she said. "To me, this ordinance also falls into that category that the state is making decisions for people who have no voice. Nobody is there telling them our side of it. They’re doing what they want."

Stow's law department will review whether or not the city can amend the resolution to include legislation regarding injection wells, which are newly drilled wells or exhausted gas wells that are used as a means of disposal for waste water used in the fracking process.

If the amendment is possible, it will be included in Thursday's vote, Stow Law Director Brian Reali said.

As for safety and possible emergencies related to the well,  Stow Mayor Sara Drew tried to quell those concerns.

"Our safety forces regularly and routinely train in emergency management procedures," Drew said.

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