Akron wants to sell mineral rights for the fracking of 475 acres of water shed land by Doug Livingston, Jan 12, 2020, Akron Beacon Journal
Akron City Council has given initial approval of a deal to allow horizontal drilling and fracking under 475 acres of public land at the La Due Reservoir, which is upstream from the city’s main drinking water supply along the Cuyahoga River.
“We’ve been working on this for probably a year and we’ve been watching the oil prices,” Public Service Director Chris Ludle told Council Monday during a committee meeting.
If approved again by all of council on Jan. 25, the deal would add another red triangle to a map almost completely covered by red triangles — each representing an oil or gas well in Geauga County where the reservoir is located.
Akron owns and manages about 33% of the Cuyahoga River shoreline through Portage and Geauga counties. The city protects wildlife and wetlands, manages the forestry and keeps the water shed fenced as part of a broader effort to safeguard the drinking supply. The gas well deal would allow the city to continue these environmental efforts while tapping into revenue streams locked thousands of feet below the surface where the Utica and Marcellus shale formation overlap in eastern Ohio.
The deal would give the city a one-time payment of $500 an acre, or $237,500 total, Ludle said. In addition, the city would get 15% of the royalties for any producing wells.
“Obviously, they could drill and not hit anything,” Ludle said. “But we would receive 15% of everything in the future.”
Drilling would not be permitted on the city’s 475 acres just south of the reservoir. Instead, the city said the operator, DP Energy Auburn LLC, would use adjacent, private property to drill down then turn horizontally to reach potential reserves below the city land. If the wells are dry, the contract says they would need to be capped after three years, at which point the city would take back the mineral rights.
Ludle said the city’s water supply is on the surface, not thousands of feet below the reservoir. Water is drawn downstream at Lake Rockwell near Kent and Streetsboro then treated and pumped to the city.
DP Energy Auburn LLC could not be reached for comment. According to Ohio Secretary of State records, the company was incorporated to do business in Ohio on Jan. 1 by Patrick D’Andrea, an Akron attorney whose website says he “handles oil and gas, real estate development, and personal injury cases.”
A message was left with D’Andrea.
Ludle said the 475 acres in question represent 3% of the public land around the reservoir. The deal would not allow the drilling company to access the land unless given city approval. And there would be no storage tanks, equipment or access roads installed on the city land. That’s what they all say, to get the deal signed. Just wait, watch and weep.
Councilmen Shammas Malik and Russ Neal, who attended the committee meeting but not as a voting members, asked about safeguards. Ludle said drilling is governed by a permitting process with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and monitoring by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which also checks the city’s water quality.
Ludle said it’s “mind-boggling” to see the amount of wells in Geauga County. There are none on public property along the water shed, he said. Operators need to collect enough acreage before getting a permit to drill. This project might go forward without the city’s participation, Ludle said.
Council members Jeff Fusco, Donnie Kammer and Ginger Baylor recommended approval of the deal, which heads to a full council on Jan. 25 with council not meeting on MLK Day. Tara Samples abstained from voting, a move she said was made to give her time to review the deal and voice her fundamental opposition to gas and oil extraction.
“I never support anything that has to do with drilling,” Samples told the Beacon Journal. “They keep saying that La Due is further down the way and accidents have happened all across the state. I’ve listened to the horror stories involved with fracking and I’ve never been in support of it.”