On December 28, 2010 the SCPR did a blog (CLICK HERE) on oil and gas industry/land owner attorney William G. Williams' effort to block the passage of resolutions by Plain Township worded to impede the horizontal hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking") of Plain's subsurface for natural gas deposits that are trapped in rock thousands of feet below the surface.
Environmentalists are concerned with potential pollution of groundwater (well sources) by the use of chemicals in the fracking process. They also worry about the disposal of the water once it has been used in fracking.
Williams got agitated by Plain Trustee Louis Giavasis' (first in Stark County) attempt to stop fracking from occurring in one of Stark's largest townships (Plain). Be sure to review the communications sent out by Williams at the time by clicking on the above link.
Williams has a very powerful political ally on fracking in Republican Governor John Kasich. Williams himself is a potent local Republican with strong ties (the Stark GOP executive committee) within the highest reaches of the Stark County Republican Party.
The Kasich/Williams adversaries in Stark County (at least at the leadership level of the anti-fracking forces) are for the most part Democrats.
The chief anti-fracking Stark County government official is Giavasis. Louis and his brother Phil (Canton Municipal Court clerk of courts; formerly Stark County clerk of courts) are part and parcel of the Stark County Democratic Party establishment.
Louis Giavasis is Nancy Reinbold's (brother Phil's successor) chief deputy at the Stark County clerk of courts office.
Here is a video SCPR interview of Giavasis made on July 19th of this year in which he summarizes where Plain is on its anti-fracking efforts. Note his reference to Scott Haws the sole Republican member of the Plain Board of Trustees and their differences on fracking. Though both deny that it is a Republican/Democrat division between them, the SCPR is not buying.
Haws is close to former state Rep. Todd Snitchler (Republican - Lake) who was recently appointed chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) by Republican Governor John Kasich and one of his Kasich assigned duties has been to marshal support for Kasich's commitment to facilitating fracking in Ohio.
The Giavasis/Haws denial of a partisan divide in Stark rang hollow at a July 26th meeting of the Plain trustees. Haws accused Giavasis of "political grandstanding." Here is video of Giavasis' response and then a follow up with Trustee Haws by the SCPR immediately after the meeting.
Teamed up with Giavasis in what the SCPR identifies a being a sort of political confederation are Alliance Councilman-at-Large Steve Okey (Democrat who is running for mayor of Alliance and whose brother has been an ardent opponent of fracking in the Ohio legislature; especially in the state parks) and Mary Cirelli who is councilwoman-at-large in Canton.
While the pro-fracking/anti-fracking lines are not strictly along a Republican/Democratic divide at the leadership levels, it is pretty close to be such in Stark if not generally across Ohio. In Stark County, North Canton Republican Councilman Jeff Davies has shown interest in promoting that North Canton Council adopt "frustrate fracking operations" ordinances being considered by Alliance, Canton, Hartville (mayor is a Democrat) and Massillon (all but one elected city official in Massillon are Democrats).
Canton City Council President Allen Schulman started out as an ally of Giavasis/Cirelli, but the SCPR is getting the sense that he is wavering on his support because of the jobs that could be coming to Canton if the oil and gas industry can blunt the efforts of Giavasis, Cirelli, Okey et al to make drilling too burdensome in Stark to make it profitable for the industry.
On July 28th Attorney William G. Williams sent out this email:
And The Repository dutifully published a piece on the 29th which had to be to the liking of Williams, to wit: Chesapeake hopes to drive Ohio's economy.
Moreover, the day before The Rep did: Kasich hails Chesapeake shale discovery as ‘shot in arm’ for Ohio with the following opening paragraph:
Chesapeake Energy said Thursday that it has discovered a “major new liquids-rich play” in the Utica shale formation that lies under eastern Ohio, including Stark County.It appears to The Report that Giavasis et al may be about to get "the bum's rush" in the face of the favorable (according to Kasich, Williams and the like) economic development and job production aspects of the Utica find. You can bet that the Kasich/Williams political guns will be aimed directly at Stark Countians who appear to stand in their way.
Giavasis may have the most to lose politically on the latest GOP initiative under the guise of economic development.
At last Tuesday's Plain Township trustee meeting (July 26, 2011), Giavasis complained about state Representative Kirk Schuring's (Republican - Jackson - the 51st) failure to follow through on a promise made to him in January of this year that he (Schuring) would work on getting the liability insurance carried by fracking operators in Ohio increased upwards over its current $3,000,000 (three million) coverage.
The Stark County Political Report is beginning to think Giavasis (who lives in the 51st) is gearing to take on Schuring in next year's general election. When the SCPR asks Giavasis as to whether or not he is interested in running for state office, he says that he would never say never.
In other words, he will test the political winds. Are they favorable or not?
If local (aided by state) Republicans can paint Giavasis as being anti-jobs for Canton/Stark County, then he likely gives up any notion of running against Schuring or, if he does run, he has a major problem in convincing job-starved 51st district constituents that he is the man to send to Columbus to look after their financial/economic development interests.
Here is Giavasis' ally and citizen activist Chris Borello's reply to the Williams' e-mail:
You can bet that Williams and his Stark County Republican Party allies will use emails such as Borello's in some way or fashion against Giavasis and any future political aspirations he might have.
What is the SCPR's position in all of this?
The Report thinks that Giavasis is on to something when he complains about the ill-preparedness of the oil and gas industry in terms of not having enough liability insurance should a catastrophic accident occur in the marcellus/utica natural gas exploration and drilling. He recounts frequently the drilling (and not even the horizontal fracturing) accident that occurred in Steiner Heights about 10 years ago or so that cost Plain Township taxpayers about $1 million to fix.
Notwithstanding the oil and gas industry's insistence that fracking is safe (which certainly is open to argument), accidents do and will happen even if the general public eventually concludes the operations are generally safe.
The questions then become (a la Deep Water Horizon [BP in the Gulf of Mexico]): where are the resources (including money) to clean up the problems which are attributable to an accident and where are the guarantees that individuals/families suffering drinking/household water pollution from an accident are provided with alternative water sources.
Giavasis is correct: $3 million in liability insurance coverage (for the entire state of Ohio) will not cut it.
Giavasis politically must and pragmatically should distance himself from the "no-risk is an acceptable risk" crowd symbolized by Chris Borello and her followers.
It does not appear to The Report that Borello (Concerned Citizens of Stark County) and the Plain Land Alliance for Nature (PLAN) anti-fracking groups that flooded into Plain Township Hall on the 26th to push for a total ban will be satisfied with anything but an outright ban on fracking in all of Plain; not just township owned land, roadways and parks.
The SCPR does not fault PLAN for its activism. The Report applauds PLAN and Borello for pressing their view of the issue and thinks the activists have played a constructive role in bring the issue to public attention.
However, there is a division of opinion on the matter in Stark County, Ohio and in America and a viable ban on horizontal hydraulic fracking is not doable in the world of realpolitik.
Here is a video sampling of the anti-fracking group member opinion (and some trustee response) from the meeting of July 26th:
There is no such thing as a "risk-free" life that PLAN and Borello seem to want to be the result of the fracking debate.
The best that we humans can do is to have resources at the ready to deal with calamities as they occur.
What should happen is for Giavasis, Williams, the governor's people, Schuring, Hagan (R-50th), Slesnick (D-52nd) and state Sen. Oleslager (R-29th) to get together and come up with a plan for raising the amount of insurance a fracker must carry to a level that would cover a worst case scenario disaster.
There may be a hue and cry from the oil and gas industry that such would be a prohibitive cost imposition. But such an argument is a phony baloney.
For we all know that in developing a formula for making a profit, companies factor in things like the cost of insurance" into arriving at price to sell at to natural gas retailers. In the end, the customer pays. And there should be no competitive advantage to particular drillers in Ohio because all of them will have to have the insurance as a condition for drilling in Ohio.
It appears that the near term reality is that natural gas is about to become the most economic viable alternative to gasoline.
The environmentalists are correct in pointing out the risks.
However, the rest of us should not allow them to hamstring recovery from the nation's financial/economic development woes and the ability to have resources to fuel future economic development by layering government with regulations/prohibitions designed to create an impossible "no-risk" drilling model.
Schuring needs to keep his promise to Giavasis to work on getting the drilling company's liability capability up to realistic levels.
Republicans generally hate for government to come in (a la Katrina and the $20 billion burden placed on BP) and command the establishment of a clean up and recovery fund.
To avoid government intervention, companies themselves need to anticipate that accidents will happen and "put oil in their lamps." (no pun intended)
The best way to handle the likelihood of additional fracking accidents is to ensure that the companies/operators themselves have acquired adequate liability insurance protection for the communities in which they set up their drilling operations so that the communities can be made whole as near as possible should a calamity occur.
If they will not protect communities voluntarily, then citizens should demand that government require them to do so!