Members of Kent City Council quizzed residents who have been studying fracking for months whether the city can regulate, ban or even promote the controversial drilling method Wednesday.
After an hour of talks council took no formal action on the issue.
Dan Schweitzer, chairperson of the Kent Sustainability Commission, presented the group's recommendations to council for addressing the issue after spending the past several months studying the practice.
In the end, Schweitzer said the issue may be less critical for Kent residents, who live in densely populated neighborhoods with the majority using city water service rather than natural wells.
"I don’t think at this point in time it’s likely anyone’s going to buy property in Kent and drill a well for fracking," he said. "The city may be agonizing over something where the real possibility of it is low.
"The way that ... the law is in Ohio is that the entity that has the sole proprietorship on saying whether someone can drill a well or not is the ODNR," Schweitzer said. "Legally, there’s not a whole lot the city can do, unless you want to expose yourself to legal liability."
Schweitzer talked about the best action, both for the city and private residents, would be to test the city's water wells to establish the presence of background metals in the water and to keep the data. The initial testing would provide a baseline to measure against future tests should fracking occur in the area.
Council members quizzed Schweitzer and other members of the sustainability commission about whether Kent should consider adopting a community bill of rights to ban fracking or whether the practice can be prohibited on city property.
John Gwinn said the city should keep an eye on a situation in Mansfield, OH, where the city is being sued by gas companies over a community bill of rights adopted there to try and regulate fracking — even though it's unlikely Mansfield will win the suit.
"I think we’d certainly want to keep an open mind on that and make a decision at that time," Gwinn said. "It certainly looked appealing to us, but it seemed to be not very likely to happen."
Schweitzer said the city can stop fracking on city-owned property by simply denying the sale of mineral rights. City officials could also deny the sale of municipal water for use in fracking or charge an above market price.
Councilman John Kuhar asked if there were ways for the city to encourage fracking.
Schweitzer said the city could lower bond requirements for infrastructure insurance where fracking is conducted if companies use safer, cleaner methods such as closed-loop hydraulic fracturing.
Kent Law Director reiterated to council members that state legislators have authority to regulate the industry in terms of restrictions.
"We cannot tell the oil and gas companies what to do," he said.
Kuhar said council needs to make sure the voice of Kent is heard at the state level regarding concerns and proposed regulations.
"Those are the people in charge," he said. "Those are the people who have power. And those are the people who know they get put there by us, the citizens."
Though council did not act directly on the issue Wednesday they make take further action in the future.