Monday, August 15, 2011


On January 11, 2011, the SCPR did a blog on the inadequate work being done by the Stark Development Board (SDB) on Stark County economic development.  Click on this link to see that blog.

While she does not blame the SDB, Commissioner Janet Creighton on the following video says she does think that Stark County does a good job on economic development.  In the following video, see and hear her make the statement yourself.  Moreover, County Administrator Mike Hanke is to be seen saying that the Stark Development Board is the economic development arm of Stark County government.

As everybody who is conscious knows, Stark County is in bad, bad shape financially and economically.  Last month the unemployment rate for the county drifted back up to 10%.   Canton is even worse (11.6%).  And new jobs that are filtering in are generally low paying ones (e.g. the Canton Call Center jobs) and despite the frequent touting of the addition of jobs, the rise to 10% (from 9.3% in May) indicates that Stark is still bleeding jobs.

The SCPR believes that this background is important to keep in mind in evaluating the SDB Hydraulic Fracturing Position Paper.  ("Position Paper").

Why important?

Because it appears to The Report that the SDB is desperately hoping that hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas will prove to be a miracle cure for the financial and economic despair that afflicts Stark County these days. 

Even if the wildest wishes of the SDB comes true with respect to oil and gas drilling, Stark Countians should not stand for the proposition that the benefits of fracking is in any way, shape or form a substitute for Stark County government and "its arm" (the SDB, according to County Administrator Hanke) getting their act together with an effective near term and long term job producing plan.

Stark's business Brahmin-esque "Hydraulic Fracking 10"  (i.e. the SDB Blue Ribbon Hydraulic Fracking Committee) appear to have adopted Governor John Kasich's enthusiasm for and push for hydraulic fracking.  The Position Paper has all the earmarks of having reached a primary conclusion beforehand and going out and cherry picking sources to buttress the conclusion.

On examining the names and vocations of the Hydraulic Fracking 10 and the sources supporting their conclusions, the SCPR does not know how in the world they can say through their spokespersons Paquette and Roth that they "thoroughly and objectively all the potential environmental ... aspects of hydraulic fracking."

A cursory examination of the Hydraulic Fracking 10 reveals that one (Rusnak) works for Roth (i.e. Aultman Hospital) and another is employed in the same law firm (Hunt - Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths and Dougherty) as two of the Committee's so called experts.  And who knows whether or not there are some "hidden" relationships that lurk in the shadows of the inquiry?  After all, this group is first and foremost is a Stark County "insider" collection who likely hold regular chit-chats over cocktails.

Bill Williams is well known for his ties to the oil and gas industry and representing Stark County land owners on oil and gas lease matters. 

What prompted the SDB to do its examination of fracking in the first place?

In December, 2010 Plain Township Trustee Louis Giavasis got things going on the fracking issue by proposing to ban fracking in Plain Township.  Giavasis had a bad experience some ten years ago with a well drilling mishap in the Steiner Heights section of the township.  Consequently, Plain had to spend about $1 million (of Plain Township taxpayer money) to solve a drinking water pollution problem.  So when reports of drinking water pollution problems that home owners were blaming on hydraulic fracking errors began to surface, Lou's ears picked up right away.

Giavasis scheduled a vote on a Plain Township fracking ban for December 28, 2010.

Bill Williams (one of The Fracking 10's experts) wrote Giavasis a long email cautioning Giavasis from proceeding, insinuating that Giavasis would be opening himself to personal liability for damages to property owners who, Williams contended, might be affected by the Giavasis proposed ban resolution.  Here is a link to the blog that published the Williams email in its entirety.

Giavasis did back off from the resolution and worked out an arrangement with WHBC's Ron Ponder (Points to Ponder) to hold community meetings (January 20 & 27th, 2011, respectively) in Plain on both sides of the issue. 

Subsequently, Plain trustees did pass resolutions asking the state of Ohio to put a moratorium on fracking and most recently banned fracking on township property, roadways and park property.

The SCPR speculates that the someone (perhaps even Governor Kasich himself) made a phone call to Paquette and other financial/economic powers that be in Stark County and asked that something be done to counter Giavasis and his allies (e.g. Chris Borello of the Concerned Citizens of Stark County, Councilwoman Mary Cirelli of Canton, et cetera).

 Giavasis, Borello et al have made great inroads in getting a number of Stark County political subdivisions (e.g. Alliance, Canton, Massillon, North Canton and Louisville) to join Plain Township in at least banning fracking on political subdivision property.

Reading the Stark Development Boards Hydraulic Fracturing Report (link), it is clear that the SDB is very excited about the economic development/financial prospects that drilling (particularly the Utica formation) could bring to Stark.

Fracking the Marcellus/Utica Shale in Stark could go a long way in masking the failure of the SDB over the 25 years or so of its existence to be overall effective in its role of being "the only game in town" for economic development countywide.

And the STB is going to do everything it can to blunt the effectiveness of the anti-fracking people.  Hence the Position Paper which the SCPR says lip service to environmental concerns.

The environmental aspect of the Position Paper lacks credibility because it has nobody on its list (the committee or the experts that appeared before the committee) that has the confidence of the anti-fracking community.

It is simply unbelievable that the SDB Committee did not include Giavasis.  Simply unbelievable!

At the very minimum, he should have been invited to speak to the Committee.

While he does not bill himself as an expert, the SCPR thinks he is being modest.  He certainly demonstrated to yours truly that he has as much knowledge if not more about the issue as a number of those listed on the Position Paper as presenters

Here is an email expressive of the anti-fracking community's view of the Position Paper:

The SCPR has written that this issue comes down to being a risk issue and guarantees that frackers carry adequate insurance to cover worse case scenario accidents.

The problem with the anti-fracker community (in terms of public acceptability of their position) is that for the most part they appear to be "no risk" folks.

Of course, we all would like to go through life without encountering any risk to our well being.  But it is axiomatic that such is not possible.

One reader of the Report has put the risk issue this way:  "Does the six chambered gun have one (1) bullet, three (3) bullets or five (5) bullets loaded?"

The answer makes all the difference in the world.

The Stark Development Board needs to re-open its inquiry to include a more balanced field of sources for the environmental side of its consideration.

And in its concomitant supplemental report, it needs to tell Stark Countians how many potential environment-killing bullets the Committee concludes are in the oil and gas industry's fracking gun providing convincing evidence for the conclusion.

If the Committee does not, then Stark Countians should conclude that the Position Paper is neither "thorough" nor "objective."

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