From the Geauga County Maple Leaf
A local energy company’s proposal to lease the mineral rights under 475 acres of LaDue Reservoir from the City of Akron has met with an avalanche of outrage from local residents and environmental groups.
DP Energy Auburn LLC, organized Jan. 1, according to Ohio Secretary of State’s office records, wants to drill under LaDue and surrounding properties for oil or natural gas in what many called “fracking,” or drilling deep in a vertical direction, then horizontally into shale layers far below the surface.
An Akron Beacon Journal article said DP Energy plans to drill under 475 acres of watershed land at LaDue, which straddles southern Geauga and northern Portage counties.
The energy company told Akron Public Service Director Chris Ludle that DP was organized Jan. 1 by Akron attorney and former City Councilman Patrick D’ Andrea, who served as councilman from 1979-1989 and as Summit County director of development, according to his law firm’s website.
Efforts to reach D’Andrea at his law office were unsuccessful and a recording stated his voice mailbox was full and could not receive messages.
D’Andrea told Ludle because the LaDue land will be adjacent to parcels that DP already owns, there will be no need for equipment, tanks or access roads on the LaDue portion. If no oil or gas is found within three years, the well must be capped and the mineral rights forfeited back to the City of Akron.
DP would pay Akron $500 per acre, or $237,500 plus 15 percent of any royalties, for the mineral rights. If Akron did not agree to the deal, the company would drill on adjacent property anyway.
According to a Jan. 21 Cleveland.com article, the city has been in negotiations to sell the mineral rights for about a year.
LaDue Reservoir, in Auburn and Troy townships, was completed in 1962 to provide a water source for the City of Akron. The lake was formed by damming two tributaries of the Cuyahoga River — Black Brook and Bridge Creek. The reservoir was named for Dr. Wendell Richard LaDue, longtime director of Akron’s water and sewer departments who retired in 1963.
The proposed contract agreement with DP was scheduled to come before Akron City Council on Jan. 25, but one council member referred it back to committee, halting the process temporarily. According to another council member, the issue could be voted upon as early as Feb. 1.
As the proposal sat in committee, council has been bombarded with voice messages and emails, mostly opposed to the fracking. Many have made their opinions known on social media outlets such as Facebook, Next Door and Twitter.
“I learned about it through an article I saw in the Akron Beacon Journal and one on Cleveland.com,” Russell Township resident Shelly Chernin told the Geauga County Maple Leaf last week.
Chernin serves as a trustee for Protect Geauga Parks and said she is opposed to fracking at LaDue.
“I’m frustrated because Geauga is impacted by what is decided by the City of Akron,” Chernin said via phone interview. “I wrote to our county commissioners and heard back from County Administrator Gerry Morgan that there isn’t much they can do.”
Chernin said she has been observing Akron City Council meetings lately and at a recent meeting, there were 90 minutes’ worth of public comments about the LaDue fracking proposal, most in opposition.
“Most were concerned about how it could impact the groundwater, since 95 percent of homes in the area have water wells, which is a main concern,” she said. “Many are worried that DP Energy has only been in business since January and are offering a cheap lease that some think could be flipped and sold at a quick profit to someone else. We’re disturbed that Akron would even consider this.”
While some comments have been in favor of fracking, including several urges to “Frack On,” the vast majority seem concerned about potential damage to the water table, worry about sufficient safeguards and possible long-term problems on the surrounding properties.
Justin Fiorille, who has lived about a mile from LaDue in Mantua for the past 22 years, said he first heard of the possible fracking on Facebook, when someone posted the Akron Beacon Journal article.
“I’m an engineer and I’m well aware of the fracking issues in this country, and what has happened with fracking problems in Youngstown,” Fiorille said via phone interview Jan. 30.
“I understand the need for profits and that fracking can occur safely, but I’m concerned about the water system,” he said. “Once it’s spoiled, it’s over. I’ve seen on the Next Door app on the internet a very active thread. People are alarmed.”
Fiorille said he is one of many who have contacted Akron City Council members to share his concerns.
“Private homes surround that property,” he continued. “DP is a month old company, but it’s probably not brand new, just another company re-branded.”
A Next Door user named Jennifer Stice, of Troy/Auburn township area, wrote, “I am livid that they are even considering this. This puts our health, safety and property at risk. If you are also opposed, please call 330-375-2566 (an Akron City Council comment line).”
John B., of Hiram and Mantua, wrote on Next Door, “Fracking wells have been going on since 1940.”
A woman who uses the handle “barbebeaty” wrote on Instagram last week, “Akron now toys with the raping of our environment around (LaDue Reservoir) for the benefit of a few at the cost of the health of our community and the preservation of Mother Earth — our ONLY home, by the way. As a well water community, this directly affects us. All water runs together.”
When reached by phone Jan. 31, Ward 4 Akron City Councilman Russell Neal council has received so many comments he believes most members are now leaning against approving the measure.
“Because of the activism of the community, bringing up things that we have dealt with in years back, the proposal was taken off the consent agenda at last week’s meeting and referred back to committee,” Neal said. “Everyone’s concerns have been shared with the city’s water department.”
Neal said council members have been discussing the issue in greater depth with constituents and although the proposal could come up for a vote either this week or next, he believes it will not pass.
“I honestly believe — and this is just my opinion — that with all the additional information we have been receiving, a majority of council members will now be opposed,” Neal said. “The risk seems to outweigh the rewards. The majority of comments have been opposed and the community seems to have two main questions: Is this the best deal that the city could get? And what are the environmental risks?”
Neal added, “I should have been more aware and glad the community spoke out so we could learn enough to make the best decision. There have been very good points raised by the community.”
He said the contract would only give the city a little more than $200,000, which was not enough to make it worth risking public health.
“And flipping the contract is another major concern,” Neal said. “Government these days needs to be transparent. There’s no need to rush this. Everybody should have a chance for input.”