Earlier this week, Plain Township resident and Canton-based Attorney William G. Williams sent a letter to the Plain Township trustees telling them, in essence, to back off of Trustee Louis Giavasis' bold initiative via trustee resolution to banning oil and gas industry plans to explore, drill and extract natural gas encased in the rock of the Marcellus Shale underground strata or face possible dire personal consequences.
Even before Williams sent his letter (expedited via e-mail and published in full on the SCPR blog), The Report predicted that pressure from "on-high" would be forthcoming. Apparently, Williams is the "designated hitter" for the oil and gas industry in Stark County.
And he is a well connected Stark County Republican.
Although Republican state Representative-elect Kirk Schuring (51st) denies that he is allied with the oil and gas industry on the fracking issue, the SCPR is skeptical.
The Report believes that something is going on between Schuring, Plain Township Trustee Scott Haws and, perhaps, Attorney Williams to thwart Giavasis' effort in Plain. And they all are, in varying degrees, undoubtedly committed to the Republican Party point-of-view which is generally favorable to the oil and gas industry (i.e. "drill, baby, drill").
There is little doubt from The Report's standpoint that there are clearly Republican/Democratic differences on the lateral high pressure fracking per se and its concomitant oil/gas exploration, drilling and extraction. Stark Countians are seeing the party feuding up close and personal.
The fracking issue became dicier today with a wire report that Republican Governor-elect John Kasich said today that "the Marcellus Shale could give a needed economic boost to the state." Moreover, "The Associated Press" reported that Kasich said that Marcellus Shale development "would be ... 'a God send' for Ohio if the formation yields a significant amount of gas."
The SCPR contacted Williams yesterday evening inquiring as to whether or not he had a heads-up from the Kasich-elect administration that Kasich was committing himself on the fracking issue and Williams responded that he had not been in touch with the Kasich folks relevant to the issue.
Undoubtedly, the likes of Republican elected politicians Haws, Schuring, Oelslager and Snitchler will be emboldened by the Governor-elect's announcement and will turn out to be important allies of the oil and gas industry to put a stop to the Democratic Party centered opposition to developing local reserves of natural gas.
The political stakes are high for each political party. Developing new sources of energy is a high priority for the nation. Natural gas resources are of growing importance. And there is a local twist. A number of Ohio school districts (including the Canton City Schools) are seriously entertaining the thought of converting school bus fleets to natural gas.
While the advocates of going ahead with fracking acknowledge some risk to water contamination and the release of explosive gases when drillers do not follow drilling protocol, they say that the risk is minimal. They like to point out that all of life has inherent risk and equate drilling and extraction problems to such risk.
Opponents counter that any risk whatsoever to drinking water supplies is unacceptable and vow to fight fracking to the bitter end. The only realistic vehicle for opponents is through Democratic elected officials who are willing to make that fight.
Why would they be willing the to make the fight?
Perhaps on the hunch that Republicans are so wedded to the oil and gas industry (as was apparent from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) that should the Republican position be a miscalculation, then those who defended the fresh water supply will come out in a politically advantaged position.
Such is politics folks.
The question that the SCPR has in light of the Williams letter and Governor-elect Kasich's annoucement is whether or not the primary elected official-opponents to surface so far in Stark County (Trustee Giavasis, Canton City Council President Allen Schulman and Councilwoman Mary Cirelli) will stand their ground.
The Report believes that they will not.
Local environmental activists tell the SCPR that Schulman is already showing signs of fading. It also appears to The Report that Giavasis is also in full retreat by virtue of his readily agreeing to a tabling of Tuesday's Plain Township consideration of his proposed resolution.
We should all know, as far as Stark County is concerned, in very short order.