Kent City Council Takes a Look at Natural Gas
Recently, the Kent City Council held a lively public meeting to discuss oil and natural gas development within the City’s borders. The event was so well attended the fire marshal, per the fire code, had to close the doors after 81 people entered the room. The event was the first meeting where council joined to consider a request from local environmental groups intent on blocking natural gas production to regulate natural gas development within city limits.
What was curious about the supporting documents sent by these local environmental group is that they came from a group called the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. More on that in a bit.
The ultimate decision-making body in this situation is the Kent City Council. There are only a few local governments organized like Kent in Ohio. There is city council, a mayor and a city manager. Authority is divided among the all three bodies. The council is composed of nine members. Three are elected at-large and six members represent wards in the City of Kent. The Mayor, who is elected, also sits on council and votes in case of a tie. The city manager, who is appointed, runs the city on a day to day basis. This meeting drew a capacity crowd that has not been seen in Kent in a long time.
The meeting began with a comment from city law director Mr. Jim Silver, his advice to council was:
adopting such an ordinance would put the city into conflict with state law. All power to regulate fracking in the state of Ohio currently resides with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, not local governments.
He’s right. Ohio law specifically precludes local governments from regulating natural gas activity in the Buckeye State. Specifically the law, Ohio Revised Code Section 1509.02 states:
The Division of Oil and Gs Resources Management under the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has sole and exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations within the state, excepting only those activities regulated under federal laws for which oversight has been delegated to the environmental protection agency and activities regulated under sections 6111.02 to 6111.029 of the Revised Code.
After the City’s law director provided his comments the floor was open and the microphone was on for the public to comment.
After about three hours of public comment, including several residents and members of the business community who are in favor of natural gas development in Kent and Portage County, the members of council took a vote to continue the discussion at the next council meeting which will be held in two weeks.
At that meeting the council will also take up another issue brought to them by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. We will feature this group in a later post but for now let’s just say our partners at Energy in Depth – Marcellus have seen their act play time and time again and have debunked their selfish ploy of providing “free legal services” several times. Guess that old saying applies here – you get what you pay for and in this case not very much, other than bad advice that runs counter to what Ohio law dictates.
Be sure to follow Energy in Depth – Ohio next week for an inside view of the decisions of the members of Kent City Council as well as a thorough piece discussing the activities, and agenda, of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.