Panel backs drill monitoring rules

An ordinance to create a monitoring program related to any drilling and disposal of oil and gas wastes in the city is being forwarded to city council.

The Rules and Ordinance Committee chaired by Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey voted 3-0 Tuesday to recommend the proposed ordinance for council’s consideration, pending a review by city Law Director Brooke Zellers.

The committee first discussed the issue in November after Dickey researched a monitoring program put into place in Athens. She said the imposition of a monitoring fee could help protect the residents if any drilling takes place in the city because the money would enable monitoring of the air, water and ground for any adverse effects.

The program could help pay for fire or police equipment required to respond to a spill or emergency at a facility and also provide training for first responders.

The committee has since then formalized the proposal and discussed different aspects of the program, with more discussion Tuesday regarding a partial return of the fee if no damages occur, a question over the definition of hazardous waste and what should be done with the money raised from the fees after a site is closed and no further monitoring is required. A section regarding a per-barrel fee for each substance delivered to be injected into a well was eliminated.

Councilman Rick Drummond, who’s a member of the committee, questioned whether they had to use a definition provided by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for hazardous waste, expressing concern over the possible aggressiveness of the agency. Dickey pointed out they can’t make it less restrictive than what a higher law has already decided.

“If I had my way, I wouldn’t allow any hazardous waste to come in,” Councilman Clyde Brown said.

Brown, who’s also a member of the committee, questioned putting a time limit on when a company could receive part of the fee back. The proposal was to give back 50 percent of the fee a year after a site closed, but he wondered if a year was long enough, noting that a problem could come up in later years. They agreed it should only be 50 percent of the net balance and that an engineer could determine whether a site was stable and the money could be returned.

In talking about the fee and what happens if there’s some huge chunk of money left after all the monitoring is done and the drilling has fizzled out, Dickey said there shouldn’t be that much money left over. The plan is to review the fees each year to see if they need reduced, plus the money will be used for training first responders and for monitoring activities.

Drummond was concerned that the money would be locked in for just the monitoring program and couldn’t be used for anything else once the drilling is over. He used the industrial park as an example, with money set aside only for that use, stuck in an account that can’t be used for anything else. He said they could specify now that any money left over be used for safety forces.

In other business, the committee briefly discussed making changes to an ordinance regarding certificates of occupancy. A request had been made to take out a section which Planning and Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey said can’t be used because the city does not have a building department.

Morrissey said they could make changes to the ordinance to make it work for what the department can do. It was decided he would go through the ordinance and make suggestions for changes, with further discussion by the committee.