Ohio towns challenge state over fracking


Ohio’s economy is a little better off than the rest of the nation’s, to the delight of President Obama, the denial of Mitt Romney and the pride of Republican Governor John Kasich.

As the New York Times reports, a portion of Ohio’s recovery has come directly from the boom in fracking. And then there’s the question of who gets to regulate fracking, with its risk of contaminating your well or rattling your house with earthquakes. In Ohio lately, cities and towns are asking for say. The industry is not having it. From the Columbus Dispatch:

“This issue has been debated at the General Assembly, and they wisely concluded that oil and gas regulation is a complex, technical issue and should be regulated by people who are experts in oil and gas,” said Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

“I have yet to meet a local official who understands … well-construction issues and all the other complexities associated with drilling. City councils are very good at what they do, but they do not have that expertise.”

I’m not sure if the gas guy means that state legislators are experts in oil and gas, which seems on the whole not so plausible, or if he means administrators with the state should be in charge. If it’s the latter, then it’s worth remembering that in Youngstown, in particular, when state administrators said a wastewater injection well caused earthquakes, the company involved didn’t like that, either.

Every week now in Ohio, you’ll find a new story about a town wanting some control over fracking – whether it’s the ban being considered in Youngstown, or the prohibition on injection wells passed in big Cincinnati and tiny Niles. You’ll also find the story of folks like Julia Fuhrman Davis in Beaver Township, who want a vote on “home rule” status so they could pass some kind of anything to regulate the industry that has moved into their backyards, even if local ordinances don’t count for much. From the Youngstown Vindicator:

“We can’t ban fracking, and we know that,” said Fuhrman Davis. “But with limited home rule, we can adopt local rules on hours of operation, noise limits, truck traffic and routes, local nuisance rules, fences and sign rules for drillers, waste shipments. We can use those rules to fight back a little bit, to give us more control. It’s David versus Goliath. But it’s a way to fight drilling.”

Up top, video from yet another group of local activists, in Trumbull County, who blockaded a wastewater injection well this summer.

(See also Pennsylvania, New York and Colorado.)