Akron mayor pulls plan to drill for oil and gas at LaDue Reservoir by Doug Livingston, Akron Beacon Journal, Feb 4, 2021
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan is withdrawing a proposal to allow fracking for gas and oil beneath city-owned watershed land at the LaDue Reservoir in Geauga County.
While defending the environmental safeguards and economic necessity of the proposed deal, Horrigan told the public during a Facebook Live town hall Thursday that the city is abandoning a tentative deal with DP Auburn Energy LLC to lease mineral rights for 475 acres of watershed land.
The deal would have required approval from council, which passed the plan out of committee before Councilwoman Tara Samples pulled the issue back into committee for reconsideration.
On Monday, council took no action on the proposal but heard hundreds of complaints from neighbors of the reservoir in Auburn Township, Akron residents who rely on the drinking water supply and environmentally concerned citizens across the region, including members of the Democratic Socialists of America and Our Revolution Akron, an offshoot of the national progressive movement championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“Drilling under Lake Le Due Reservoir was a bad idea from the onset,” said Samples, an Our Revolution supporter who called the mayor’s decision to abandon the deal a “win” for the people whose voices were heard “loud and clear.”
“Whether you call it mineral drilling or something (else), it’s still fracking,” she said. “And the bottom line is you can’t take back poisoning people’s water. That lasts a lifetime.”
Horrigan said good points were made on either side of the issue, and he’s willing to have a fact-based debate about whether fracking is the right way to generate revenue for Akron.
“I completely understand the public’s concern about irresponsible fracking practices that have occurred in this country, but I’m also troubled about the misinformation used to stir up community concern, when our primary objective is to safeguard the health, economic mobility, and safety of our residents,” Horrigan said in a statement following his town hall. “This proposal would have allowed for Akron’s tight control over the project, with the ability to put the highest of restrictions and protections in place.”
When asked early on about how the project would be monitored, Public Service Director Chris Ludle told council that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which issues drilling permits, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which monitors air and water quality, would have overseen compliance with state and federal laws. Pfft, when it comes to frac’ing, “regulators” look the other way and help polluters pollute.
The deal would have generated a one-time payment of $500 an acre, or $237,500 total, plus 15% royalties for any producing wells. Drilling would have been done on adjacent property, with horizontal bores turning into the shale formation below LaDue and eastern Ohio. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would have been used to pressurize the wells to fracture the rock and release potential gas and oil deposits.
“Given that support (from council) may not have been there and given your concerns, I can’t see us moving forward anytime soon,” Horrigan told the public on the Facebook Live video.
“I understand you’re concerned about the irresponsible fracking practices that have happened around the country. But it’s also kind of troubling sometimes to look at some of the misinformation that is out there — really, sometimes, just to stir up community concern — when our primary concern is always to keep our drinking water and our citizens safe … This isn’t Flint. It’s not even a comparison. … We’re not selling the water rights … And, quite frankly, I haven’t been bought by campaign donors. I want to make that clear.”
Opponents of the mineral rights lease deal accused Horrigan of being influenced by campaign support linked to Patrick D’Andrea, an attorney and former councilman who filed the paperwork that created DP Auburn Energy LLC this year. Horrigan denied those allegations.
D’Andrea, who spoke during Horrigan’s 2016 inauguration at Greystone Hall as a childhood friend of the new mayor, has not returned phone calls seeking comment on the proposed deal.
Horrigan said the project was financially necessary as ratepayer revenue for a court-mandated sewer reconstruction project dips with businesses not using as much water in the pandemic and municipal customers struggling to pay monthly bills.
“Without this potential new revenue, the city continues to be in a precarious spot when it comes to needed funding,” Horrigan said. “Due to our federally mandated $1.2 billion sewer project, there are sizeable sewer fees already at the feet of Akron ratepayers.”
Horrigan promised when he was elected to a second term that he would not consider until this year whether he would seek higher sewer rates, which jumped 69% in the two years before he first took office. There was no mention on whether the mayor would pursue a rate increase.
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