An agreement could be in the works between the City of Akron and a private energy company that would result in drilling for gas and oil under 475 acres just south of the LaDue Reservoir in Auburn and Troy townships.

In an Akron Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting on Jan. 11, Director of Public Service Chris Ludle explained that the energy company, DP Energy Auburn, LLC, is seeking to put gas and oil wells on adjacent private property to the city-owned land. He said this is located in the upper Cuyahoga River Watershed, and the proposal has been about a year in the making.

The company is offering the city a one-time payment of $237,500, or $500 per acre, in a lease agreement for mineral rights of the 475 acres, according to the agreement. The city would also receive 15 percent of royalties on all oil and gas extracted from the wells.

Geauga Commissioner Tim Lennon said neither the city nor the private company have approached the commission about the potential drilling in the county; however, he added the commissioners would not hold any authority over the situation anyway “I’d have to check with [our] legal counsel,” he said, “but I don’t think the commissioners can do anything officially to stop it. We don’t have the authority to impose restrictions on lands we don’t own.” He said any zoning concerns that may rise would fall under township purview.

Mr. Lennon said he is not necessarily opposed to fracking, noting that there are oil wells all throughout the county, but he addressed environmental or drinking water concerns both area Geauga residents and Akron residents may have if City Council approves the deal. The city faced previous opposition from Geauga County residents to a logging proposal near LaDue in 2018, he added.

LaDue is a secondary reservoir of Akron’s supply of drinking water.

Mr. Lennon said Akron should put the LaDue area on the market if the city is no longer keeping the land in Geauga County for buffering or preserving its drinking water supply. That way, the land would get back into Geauga tax rolls, he said.

He said he would have to wait for more information to unfold on the issue before taking any stance for or against the initiative.

During the Jan. 11 meeting, Mr. Ludle explained that the agreement would not prevent the city from continuing any preservation efforts.

“We can [still] do our invasive species program or wetlands management. We can do the normal things that we do to protect our land and protect the lake and the river up there,” he said, later adding, “We will still be able to do our best management practices with this land as we have in the past and we will be in the future.”

He said if the agreement is approved, the energy company will have three years to find resources. “If they do not produce or if they do not hit anything, they cap the well and then all of the mineral rights do revert back to the city,” he said.

Akron Councilmen Shammas Malik and Russel Neal asked about the potential impact of drilling on the environment and drinking water at LaDue. Mr. Ludle explained that any drilling is governed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“The permitting must go through them, they must submit design criteria to be approved by both agencies, and then as the operation goes on, they’re managed by those agencies,” Mr. Ludle explained.

“So, you’re saying that there’s no concern with it impacting any groundwater or anything under there?” Mr. Neal asked.

Mr. Ludle did not specify impact on groundwater but pointed out that Akron drinking water comes from surface water, primarily from Lake Rockwell.

About 97 percent of Geauga County residents, however, depend on underground wells for drinking water.

If council does not approve the agreement, Mr. Ludle said he couldn’t say for certain whether DP Energy Auburn would continue with the project on its own land. He said they might and could lock the city out of any revenue from potential finds.

“They own the land or they’ve got lease rights on adjacent land to our property, so my guess is they would still drill,” he said. “Now, they would not be able to drill underneath our land, [but] if that vein goes from our land to their land, how do we know that they’re not drawing under our land and taking the oil and gas?”

He added that there is already a “mind-boggling” amount of gas wells surrounding LaDue, citing a Geographic Information System, or GIS, map of the county that shows hundreds of indicators for gas/oil wells with little to none on City of Akron property.

Mr. Ludle was not available for further comment before the Times’ deadline this week.

Ellen Nischt, senior strategic counsel and press secretary for Akron, said city officials are not seeking action from Akron City Council yet in order to address community questions and concerns.

“City administration has asked City Council to take several weeks’ time on the ordinance that would authorize the lease of oil and gas rights near the LaDue Reservoir,” she said in an email to the Times, “meaning we are not asking for City Council to take further action to approve it at this time.

“We want to address some community questions and provide accurate information about the proposed drilling and its safety,” she added. “We will likely be putting some of this information out in the next couple weeks.”

Sam joined the Times in 2019 and covers several communities and schools in the Chagrin Valley and Geauga County. She also oversees the features/community events and the website. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.

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