Fracking Decision Delayed by Kent City Council
Last-minute vote pushes back action a minimum two months; city to invite state industry regulators
City officials in Kent want to wait and gather more information about hydraulic fracturing before weighing in on the issue in a formal letter to state leaders.
Kent City Council voted Wednesday to wait two months before sending a letter to Gov. John Kasich, members of the Ohio legislature and regulatory officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources expressing concerns about the controversial process of drilling for natural gas hundreds of feet beneath the ground.
The vote delays action previously approved by council that followed several hours of discussion at a capacity-crowd meeting held in March on the issue. After that lengthy meeting, council agreed to send such a letter on behalf of those residents who spoke out with concerns about the issue — particularly about water quality and how fracking effects it.
Minutes after voting to delay action council voted Wednesday night to invite regulatory officials from the ODNR in a formal letter that expresses the "city's concerns in writing so they can provide a frame work to the regulatory agency when inviting them to visit," according to the motion made by Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer.
Shaffer said she was simply asking that the invitation to state officials be part of the public record rather than simply an informal phone call from city staff.
"If we approach the state, I want to see us approach them in a way that does provide a kind of context," she said.
Councilman Wayne Wilson said he made the motion to wait two months before sending a letter to state leaders in order to gather more information about what exactly the state is doing to address concerns over fracking.
"I really think that we need to be more informed," Wilson said "I think it would be a good idea to have the state come in."
In making his motion, Wilson said he wanted to postpone any such action for two months, in light of several emails sent to council about the issue, so that the city could invite state officials in for a presentation on fracking.
Councilman Robin Turner said he agreed with Wilson on delaying formal action so they can gather information and then make a statement.
"Listening to additional information I don’t think is contrary to what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Turner said. “I think we can wait a little bit to come up with our final report. And I think it probably will have greater integrity and value to the community if we do that."
Following that discussion, council then voted to refer the issue to its sustainability committee for further review and examination simultaneously with the regular council's review.
"I think they deserve a more focused hearing process," Turner said.