After 30 minutes of stating their case, supporters of an anti-fracking law in Kent got their wish partly fulfilled Wednesday night.
Supporters of a ban on fracking asked members to consider establishing an ordinance banning the controversial method of drilling for natural gas within city limits.
Council members listened to 30 minutes of testimony from residents who support the ban before Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala asked if anyone on council wanted to consider making a motion on the issue.
Councilwoman Tracy Wallach moved to put the issue — and the proposed draft ordinance — on the agenda for council's April 4 committee meeting. Council voted unanimously to put the issue on next week's agenda.
Fiala said he asked for the motion in order to expedite the group's request.
More than 20 people signed up to speak to council Wednesday night but only 10 spoke about the fracking issue before council voted to refer it to next week's committee meeting. No one spoke in favor of the practice, which has been widely implemented in the gas drilling industry and has been scrutinized for its potentially harmful after effects.
Those who spoke included The Rev. Melissa Carvill-Zeimer, who compared a few millileters of water in a syringe taken from a 2 quart container of water to the amount of clean, usable water available on the earth's surface.
"The amount of fresh water accessible to us is a tiny percentage of the water covering the surface of the earth," Carvill-Zeimer said. She said permitting fracking in Kent would lead to the contamination of Kent's drinking water, which has been internationally recognized for its high quality.
Others who spoke used the same example of potentially contaminating Kent's water supply — which is drawn from underground acquifers near the Village of Brady Lake — as a reason for council to ban the practice, including Caroline Arnold.
Arnold, a longtime Kent resident and founding member of the Kent Environmental Council, urged the city council to follow suit with past incarnations of the Tree City's top governing body and take a pro-environmental stance.
"One of Kent’s outstanding features over the years has been its excellent water,” Arnold said. “I am concerned today because our community’s authority to control actions that may effect our water, air and soil has been taken away from us so that oil companies can ... extract natural gas and sell it on the world markets."
Kent Assistant Law Director Eric Fink told council members the power to enact laws regarding fracking is reserved for state legislative bodies.
Supporters of the ban, however, argued other municipalities in Ohio have taken action to ban fracking and suggested Kent could do the same.
After supporters of the ban left the meeting, council discussed the idea of bringing in representatives from the oil and gas drilling industry to talk about the drilling method at next week's committee meeting.
"I think it’s only fair that we make some type of an effort to find somebody on the other side," Councilman John Kuhar said.
But after some discussion council voted not to make an effort to invite industry members in for the meeting and instead opted to rely on news coverage of the upcoming meeting as a means of encouraging fracking supporters to attend.
"It was very well known the anti-fracking group was coming to council," Councilman Jack Amrhein said, referring to local news coverage of the issue. "Anyone who is pro fracking could have said ‘I’m going to provide my side.’”
Council will discuss the issue again, and the proposed ordinance, during a committee meeting at 7 p.m. April 4.