Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Frac drilling

For more information about this posting related to a video of a homeowner literally setting his water on fire as the water came out of the tap in his kitchen sink, contact Amy Feran.

Below are the links to the story and the video. This illustrates what happened in Bainbridge.

Frac drilling releases gas from rock formations, but all of the released gas does not necessarily travel up to the wellhead. It, along with the toxic chemicals used in the drilling mud, can travel long distances along rock formations and get into drinking water supplies.

In Highland Heights we have several streams that are headwaters for Euclid Creek, which empties into Lake Erie. And we get our drinking water from Lake Erie.

Frac drilling is not nearly as contained as drilling companies would like us to believe. It has the potential to impact far beyond the boundries of any 20 acre drilling leasehold. In Bainbridge, they are still having problems with gas contaminating water and homes in the neighborhood where the house exploded. The problem has not been resolved. The house explosion was not a one shot deal.

Frac drilling has exploded in Colorado, where this story comes from. Local legislators are now lobbying Washington to change the rules and remove the exemption that Halliburton acquired in 2003, which exempted frac drilling from the provisions of the Clean Water Act, because they are experiencing so much ground water contamination as a result of this new drilling technique.



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things to Think About Before Signing A Gas Drilling Lease

Hello Neighbors.

When you get a request to sign a gas drilling lease, your natural first question is: How much money will I get? But signing a drilling lease is serious business. There are other things you need to consider.

The Highland Heights citizens’ group, Love Our Green Space (LOGS), would like to help by suggesting several more things to think about, before signing your name on the dotted line.

First, here are some background facts:

1. Just because someone in your area has signed a lease does not mean that an energy company can automatically start drilling in your neighborhood. Energy companies need at least 20 contiguous (i.e., physically touching) acres to drill a well. That’s why they have contacted (or may contact) you. If a company doesn’t get enough other nearby property owners to sign leases, they can’t drill. It’s as simple as that.

2. When you own a piece of property, you don’t just own the earth you can see, but also anything underneath that earth. When you sign a drilling lease, you are giving some of your property rights to the energy company.

3. Even if you are offered a “non-development” or “no trespass” lease, an energy company might still be able to put a well very close to your home. State regulations allow energy companies to place wells as close as 100 feet away from inhabited residences. OAC Ann. 1501:9-1-05.

4. Ohio has a “mandatory pooling” law (O.R.C. § 1509.27) that allows energy companies to force property owners to join in drilling parcels if the companies obtain almost, but not all, of the 20 acres they need to drill. By signing a lease, you may be allowing the energy company to strong-arm your next-door neighbor to drill on his land, too.

First thing to think about: Should I talk to an attorney?

Drilling leases are legally binding contracts. They are written by and for energy companies. If you don’t understand what the lease says, you might want to ask an attorney to explain it to you. Here are some things you might want to know:

1. How long does the lease term really last?

Leases usually say they are for a set number of years (for example, 5 years). But they frequently include other language that allows the energy company to keep using your property indefinitely after that.

A question to ask: how long am I (and my property) really going to be bound by this lease?

2. What can the energy company do on or to my property?

There are several types of drilling contracts. Some leases allow an energy company to put well heads and other “surface installations” on property, while “non-development” or “no trespass” leases give the company the right to drill into and through property from a nearby entry hole. Not all wells are drilled straight up and down. “Slant” or diagonal wells are just that—they are drilled down and across property.

Questions to ask: Are there any restrictions on where the company can drill or how many shafts they can drill on my property? Can they drill right under my house? Do I have any say as to just how much drilling they do?

3. How much money will I really get from this lease?

Typically leases will offer to pay a stated amount of money if you sign the lease---but usually an energy company won’t owe you even that much if they don’t actually start drilling.

Royalty clauses can be confusing and extremely hard to understand. For example, a lease might say something like: “You will be paid a proportionate share of 1/8th of the proceeds realized on all oil and gas sold commercially off the unit, as the amount of your acreage bears to the total unit,” with “proceeds” being defined as being “net of severance, ad valorum, and other taxes and charges levied against production.” Huh? Because the potential royalties are the main reason for signing a lease, you need to understand precisely what the company is promising to pay you.

Questions to ask: What royalties am I really going to get? What unit are they talking about? How competitive is this royalty offer? Do other companies offer more? Who does the accounting? How often will I get paid? How will I know I am being paid correctly? What are my rights if I don’t think I’m being paid the right amount? What kinds of “charges” can the company deduct, to reduce the amount of royalties they owe me? And what taxes will I owe?

4. Is this the only company I will deal with?

Depending on how it is written, the company may have the right to sell, transfer or assign your lease to someone else.

Questions to ask: Can my lease be transferred? Do I get to choose who else I do business with?

5. What additional legal obligations am I taking on by signing the lease?

Some leases may require you, at your own cost, to defend the title to your property. Or they may give the energy company the right to get involved in your personal financial affairs, by paying your taxes for example.

Questions to ask: What things does the lease require me to do? How much will that cost? What other legal rights am I giving to the energy company, if I sign this lease?

6. What happens if something goes wrong or if I want or need to get out of the lease?

It’s always helpful to hope for the best, but plan for the worse. Your personal circumstances may change. And any kind of drilling presents some risks. The byproducts of drilling are considered to be toxic industrial waste, and chemicals used in drilling mud can be toxic.

Questions to ask: What are my options, if I change my mind? Can I end the lease? What rights can I enforce in court? What happens if there is an environmental leak on my property? Who is responsible for the clean-up? What if there is an explosion? Can I be held legally liable since I signed the lease? What happens if a sink hole develops or my foundation cracks? Who is responsible for paying for that repair? Will my homeowners’ insurance cover me?

Second thing to think about: Will the lease affect the value of my property?

Besides talking to an attorney, you might want to talk to a real estate agent to find out if or how signing a drilling lease will affect the resale value of your home. Think of it this way. You are a homebuyer. You like two houses. One is a normal house and one sits on a lot that is subject to a lease that allows an energy company to drill into and through the property. Which would you choose to buy? Which house would you pay more for?

Third thing to think about: What about my neighbors and my neighborhood?

How do your neighbors feel about having gas well drilling going on near or under the homes in your neighborhood? It is important to talk to them because, collectively, you and your neighbors control whether or not drilling will occur-- by deciding either to sign, or not to sign, a drilling lease with an energy company

Last thing to think about: What do I know about this energy company?

In every business transaction, it is always worth finding out about your proposed business partner. What do you know about the company who contacted you?

There are lots of energy companies out there. For example, Ohio Valley Energy is the company involved in the December 2007 drilling-related house explosion in Bainbridge. Bass Energy is suing the city, trying to drill in the Community Park. Osborne just put in a well in the Shoppes at Alpha near I-271. The News Herald, the Sun Messenger, and the Chagrin Valley Times newspapers all have stories posted online about drilling in the area. The Gates Mills Fire Chief has a log of the emergency calls that the Gates Mills fire department has made to wells in that community. There’s a lot of information out there, which can help you make a good decision.

Questions? Want to get added to the LOGS email list? Call Amy Feran at (440) 446-1327

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Highland Heights Committee meeting

This comes from Amy Feran.

At a Committee of the Whole meeting on November 18th, the project manager from CT Consultants reported on the community center. He was called in after the contractor doing renovation work found water damage in several upright wood beams in the community center.

This is the update on the community center:

The beams at issue are load bearing. They are holding up a horizontal beam the runs across the top of the community room.

The water damage and dry rot in seven beams is quite severe. What they see above the floor is deterioration that began at the base of the beams.

The building is unsafe. The contractor will be asked to vacate the building today and no one will be allowed in until scaffolding, to help bear the load, is in place.

All activities scheduled for the community center through December have already been cancelled, and council directed that January activities be cancelled as well. This project could well run into and through February too.

If a heavy snow falls between now and when the scaffolding is installed, there could be significant structural failure in the building. Theoretically, the building, or part of it, could collapse. It's that bad.

When council asked if it could tour the building last night, the project manager indicated that they should not enter the building, for safety reasons, until the scaffolding was in place.

What they intend to do is to open up the floor, cut out a significant bottom portion of the beams, and replace the bottom portions with steel beams that will be bolted onto the top, solid portion of the wood beams---like amputating a leg below the knee and inserting a prothesis in the amputed portion's place.

They are not sure that the metal box in which the beams sit on the ground---which are bolted to the cement pad under the building---are still in good shape. If they are not, then the repair will be more extensive/costly b/c they will have to replace those as well.

They have now identified that a design flaw is the cause of the damage.

Apparently the beams are sitting in the earth. Possibly 4 to 8 inches into the earth. Although the relevant building standards for the time (1983) called for the use of pressure treated or similar wood, no such wood was used for these upright beams. While the problem would still probably evolved over time, even if water resistant wood had been used, it would not have occurred this quickly or to such an extent if proper building materials had been used. And if it had been designed to prevent water and moisture from the ground getting to the beams.

Because it is truly an emergency situation, council has decided that regular public bidding processes have to be dispensed with. (The law director almost jokingly stated that this is probably the most true emergency they have faced----an ironic reference, no doubt, to the fact that almost every resolution passed by council is passed as an "emergency measure".)

The project manager has been authorized to immediately procure a scaffolding contractor and to get the supporting scaffolding in place. He was given a rough dollar limit for that work. He also has been authorized to develop specifications for the restoration work, which will be submitted to three contractors that CT Consultants has worked with and is confident can properly perform the work. Council may have the contractors' responses by next Tuesday.

The projected cost, provided there are no other surprises unearthed---which is a real possibility---is $ 56,500 for the work and $ 12,5000 for the architectural and related professional services. The city has already spent approximately $ 2,500 getting the situation evaluated.

Council budgeted approximately $ 300,000 for the renovation work. Approximately $ 42,000 of that budgeted amount has not been committed or spent.

So, a very serious situation. Thank goodness it was discovered before anything devasting occurred. As one council member remarked last night, thank goodness we made it through election day. Can you imagine?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ballot language

This is the official language that will appear on the ballot in connection with the LOGS charter amendment petition drive. The issue is # 63.

If Issue #63 passes, the language that will be added to the charter is the language that appears on the LOGS petition. The below has been condensed by the Board of Elections, to conserve room on the ballot.


(By Petition)


A majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage

Shall the Charter of the City of Highland Heights be amended to provide that no part of the Highland Heights Community Park, any city-owned neighborhood park, or city-owned land that is adjacent and contiguous to such parks (together known as “parkland”) shall be sold, exchanged, or leased without prior voter approval, and residential, commercial and industrial land development and/or commercial exploitation of the parkland’s natural resources shall be prohibited, and whenever there is conflict or difference between this charter provision and any other charter provision or ordinance, this charter provision shall prevail?


Monday, March 24, 2008

Press release - petition drive

Contact: Amy R. Feran
(440) 446-1327 ar-fer@hotmail.com

Highland Heights group launches drive to protect park

Highland Heights, Ohio. March 25, 2008—Love Our Green Space (LOGS) announced today the launch of a petition drive to place a proposed amendment to the Highland Heights City Charter on the November 2008 ballot.

The proposed amendment would ban residential, commercial and industrial development in city-owned parks and would prohibit commercial activities such drilling, mining and logging on any parkland.

The full text of the proposed charter amendment reads as follows:

City parks in Highland Heights are a valued natural resource that significantly contribute to, and enhance, the quality of life in our city.

No part of the Highland Heights Community Park, any city-owned neighborhood park, or city-owned land that is adjacent and contiguous to such parks (together known as "parkland") shall be sold, exchanged, or leased without prior voter approval.

Residential, commercial, and industrial development of the parkland and/or commercial exploitation of the parkland’s natural resources, including gas or oil wells, logging, and mining, shall be strictly prohibited.

Whenever there is a conflict or difference between this Charter provision and any other provision of the City Charter or any Highland Heights ordinance, this provision shall prevail.

LOGS was formed in December 2007, after residents learned that Bass Energy of Akron, Ohio had obtained state permits and planned to drill two gas wells in Highland Heights Community Park. Of particular concern to LOGS members was city leaders’ failure to publicly discuss the issue with residents, the secrecy surrounding the lease, including the lack of a competitive bidding process, the fact that city leaders ignored local ordinances, one of which prohibits gas wells from being placed in the park, and the fact that the well sites, which the city’s engineer apparently approved, placed one gas well in a densely forested area that was inaccessible to emergency services and placed a second well in an area encompassing both designated wetlands and a constitutionally-protected Ohio Department of Natural Resources nature reserve area.

LOGS believes that the charter amendment, if adopted, will achieve three purposes. It will promote transparency in the city government, guarantee public involvement in decision-making about the parks, and provide additional, explicit protection to the city parks and parkland.

# # #

For further information: Please contact Amy R. Feran (440 446-1327) or Frank Skala (440 473-3484)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

20 April Highland Heights park walk

Sunday, 20 April, 2pm Highland Heights Park Walk
Meet at the second picnic shelter, by the pool

Photos provided by Sami Lees.

Barb Holtz, naturalist and member of the Friends of Euclid Creek, will provide a guided tour with interpretive narration through a part of the community park.

She will help us explore the Dusty Goldenrod Meadow nature reserve, located on the Mayfield School Board property on the north side of the park.

Everyone is welcome. Call Frank Skala at 440-473-3484 for information.

Did you ever wonder what lies behind the parking lots and playing fields? Experience the wonders of the Highland Heights Community Park on Sunday April 20th, at 2 pm. We invite you to join us for a guided tour into the "wilds". Barb Holtz, naturalist and member of Friends of Euclid Creek, will provide a guided tour with interpretive narration through a part of the Community Park few of us have seen or experienced.

Did you know that three creeks meander through this area? They are headwaters of Euclid Creek, which flows into Lake Erie at Wildwood State Park . Barb will also help us explore the Dusty Goldenrod Meadow nature reserve, which is located on the Mayfield School Board property on the north side of the park.

Interested? Be sure to wear boots. They don't call them "wetlands" for no reason. We will meet at the second picnic shelter (by the pool) at 2:00 on April 20th. The walk will take between one and two hours. Everyone is welcome.

Sponsored by the Friends of Euclid Creek (www.FriendsOfEuclidCreek.org) and LOGS (Love Our Green Space), a Highland Heights citizens group. For more information, please call Frank Skala at 440-473-3484.

5 April - Clean Your Attic - HH Garden Club

The Highland Heights Garden Club is having a "Clean your Attic Sale" on Saturday, April 5th from 9 to 3. LOGS is planning to have a representative there for signatures on the charter petition.