Council Proposes City Fracking Monitoring Program

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Athens City Council is taking another stab at protecting the city from the possible effects of fracking by introducing legislation that would create a resource extraction and waste disposal monitoring and mitigation program.

The legislation will officially be introduced by Athens City Councilwoman Chris Fahl next week. On Monday, Fahl outlined the legislation during a Council Planning and Development Committee meeting. She said she’s been working on the legislation for a long time and it has been carefully reviewed by City Law Director Patrick Lang.

“He said it is legally defensible in many ways,” Fahl said.

While the city of Athens may not have much available land for the practice of oil and gas drilling, Fahl said she’d rather be “safe than sorry” if the community is impacted by hydraulic fracturing or injection wells.

The legislation would create a new chapter of Athens City Code to “protect the health, safety and welfare of residents by generating funds” for a number of activities such as air and water contamination monitoring, spelling out spill planning and notification requirements, giving the city the authority to test disposal waste for harmful chemicals, establishing a fee for all resource extraction and related waste disposal, and establishing the Athens Monitoring, Mitigation and Environmental Fund.

Operators of injection wells or drilling sites would also have to supply certain background information to the city service-safety director such as a listing of all key employees under the proposed legislation.

“This makes sure that people know who to contact if there’s problems,” Fahl said.

The fund would also help cover costs of increased police and fire protection associated with drilling or injection well sites.

“Usually the police and fire need to have upgraded equipment so that they can deal with hazardous waste or other types of waste that may have certain types of ingredients in it such as benzene…They may need new training to keep them up to standard to be able to be first responders to that,” Fahl said.

“To try to make sure that the industry is paying for their fair share of all these services that would be provided by the city, that’s why this disposal monitoring and mitigation program is being put forward tonight,” she added.

Councilwoman Michele Papai thanked Fahl for her hard work to draft the legislation.

“If this was to be passed here in Athens, other communities will use this as a template for their own communities. We’re kind of ahead of the game here in Athens in terms of being the leaders in this area,” Papai said.

Fahl said the legislation would only pertain to inside the city limits of Athens, but that the legislation could be adapted and adopted by the county or other municipalities such as Nelsonville or Logan if they wish.

“This will be out there for them to review,” she said.

Councilman Jeff Risner also expressed his support for the legislation.

“I like the idea,” he said. “I think we need all the tools we can get into our toolbox just in case. Better to be safe than sorry.”