NILES - Council will host an informational roundtable at 1 p.m. today to discuss the impact of the recently passed "community bill of rights" ordinance, which attempts to ban hydraulic fracturing and deep well injections within city limits.
The roundtable will include several county officials, including Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda, labor leaders and representatives from the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.
Bob Marino, city council president, said no action will be taken at the meeting.
"It's for the purpose of education, not for the purpose of lobbying or anything else," Marino said. "It's just to clear up some misinformation, misinterpretations and misunderstandings."
At the heart of the misunderstandings, officials said, are potential unforeseen side effects of the ordinance which passed unanimously in its first reading at the Aug. 21 council meeting.
The bill of rights attempts to stop deep well hydraulic fracturing within the city limits by challenging the constitutionality of new shale gas and oil extraction in Niles.
According to Councilman Steve Papalas, the ordinance was passed as an emergency measure because of fears the oil and gas industry was planning to drill wells in densely populated areas, specifically a piece of property along Robbins Avenue in downtown Niles.
"I have an email from the people that are opposing these gas wells stating that these lands would be drilled," Papalas said. "Well, it turns out that's false. There is no way, even if the oil industry wanted to put a well in there, that they could. They need a five acre parcel of open land for a pad."
Along with the amount of land it takes to set up a producing well, Papalas said he was misinformed about the success the community bill of rights ordinance has had in other cities.
"The mayor was told this ordinance was upheld in every community that it has been passed in," Papalas said. "That's not true. They're having big problems in Munroe Falls, where it is going to the Supreme Court.
"I feel we were misled. I don't think these people were straight up with us. They've lost credibility with me. That's why I want the facts presented to City Council as far as these oil companies are concerned so we get the whole picture," he said.
John Williams, a member of the anti-fracking group FrackFree America, said he was one of the people who contacted Niles officials about the dangers of the wells, but denies supplying false information.
"As far as the land on Robbins Avenue goes, Chesapeake Energy is purchasing the land in Niles and they only do horizontal drilling, so you tell me what that means," Williams said.
The oil and gas companies only need 200 feet to put in a deep injection well, Williams said.
"They don't necessarily have to put the rig up right on that spot on Robbins if there isn't the 200 feet, but they could put it across the street," Williams said. "It's just a matter of having enough room so that, if the rig falls over, it won't smash a building or other structures.
"And the case in Munroe Falls is still ongoing," he said.
Williams said he will be at today's meeting.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a process of accessing petroleum-locked shale thousands of feet below the earths surface. The process involves pumping water, chemicals and sand into the rocks thousands of feet down in order to free the petroleum products trapped there.
Niles Mayor Ralph A. Infante said he still has concerns about deep wells being introduced in highly populated areas.
"I recommended we pass the community bill of rights because we needed to do something," Infante said. "We didn't want wells to be popping up in neighborhoods and residentials. That's my concern. I guess it turned on a light for people, because all of a sudden everyone wants a meeting.
"The well people didn't care about meeting with us before, but now they do."
One of the unforeseen ramifications of the community bill of rights, according to councilmen, is the city's ability to sell water to oil and gas companies.
While there are not currently any deals in place that would be hindered by the passage of the ordinance, the city does not want to send the wrong message.
"We do sell water to Lordstown who, in turn, sells water to the Kibler well," Papalas said. "That wouldn't affect us. That's Lordstown's deal there. But in the future, that's certainly the kind of deal that could happen for this city
"This ordinance not only sends the wrong signal, it puts a big sign up that we don't want," he said.
Meanwhile, Williams believes the city should look at all the facts before pushing to roll back the ordinance, specifically when it comes to selling water to the oil and gas industry.
"When they sell water to their residents or a racetrack, they're basically just renting the water," Williams said. "The water will be bought, cleaned and put back into circulation.
''When you sell water to the fracking industry, that water is destroyed. They aren't renting it like residents or the racetrack. They are taking it and destroying it."