Fracking, the shorthand
term for the hydraulic fracturing process utilized in oil and natural gas development, has prompted concerns about its impact on the environment, including potential hazards to the health and safety of those who live near drilling sites. While drilling is generally associated with more rural locales, it also can occur in urban areas.
Concerned Citizens Ohio/Kent has raised questions about safeguards -- or the lack of them -- if fracking comes to Kent. The concerns expressed by the citizens' group are legitimate ones that deserve to be addressed by city officials.
The Kent Sustainability Commission, a city body, has recommended that the city set bonding requirements for use of roads by the heavy equipment associated with fracking, establish background levels for the city water supply and monitor Ohio Department of Natural Resources reports on fracking activities within the city. Those are sensible recommendations that ought to be enacted by Kent City Council.
Concerned Citizens Ohio/Kent is asking for additional regulations, modeled on safeguards enacted by other cities. They include a ban on injection wells, which serve as underground waste chambers for the toxic byproducts of fracking; a ban on transportation of hazardous materials within city limits; a ban on seismic testing; and denying oil and gas leases for city-owned land. Those also seem like sensible recommendations, which deserve to be reviewed and considered by council.
While some might be content to assume that fracking will not come to Kent, there is no guarantee of that. A large tract of land on the city's west side, surrounded by residential neighborhoods, already has been targeted for conventional oil and gas drilling. There are other locations in the city that could be potential fracking locations. Seismic testing already is under way in the Kent vicinity.
Some public officials have attempted to sidestep the fracking controversy by saying that municipalities have no control over regulating oil and gas development. There is an element of truth in that, thanks to the state's decision to bypass local authorities and grant oversight of drilling to ODNR. But, as Concerned Citizens Ohio/Kent has reminded Kent officials, cities are not entirely powerless in regulating drilling.
Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer has urged her colleagues to "take a serious look" at the additional regulations suggested by Concerned Citizens. We hope they do.