Councilman wades into East Palestine leasing discussion

EAST PALESTINE – A member of council is taking it personally. Councilman Fran Figley spent most of this week’s council meeting defending Councilman Don Elzer’s group oil and gas leasing proposal, and he believes residents are falling prey to “scare tactics.”

Figley said the proposal has nothing to do with fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and thinks residents should stop worrying about the environmental concerns – even after hearing pleas from other residents.

“I’m convinced it has nothing to do with fracking or injection wells. It’s just a survey to see if people are interested,” he said.

A concerned citizen provided him with copies of an article on the dangers of fracking but his response was, “I don’t need to look at it.”

He added that for all the bad things said about fracking and water (contamination) he has seen articles rebutting those claims.

Alice Street resident Barbara Georgescu isn’t convinced they shouldn’t be concerned.

“We are now surrounded by miles and miles of gas wells and injection wells. Something could easily go wrong here. I am speaking in favor of keeping all drilling outside of city limits. As city leaders you should never be promoting the selling of water rights to leasers,” she said, adding those companies are largely protected by the Clean Air and Water Act through federal legislation.

Side effects of drilling include pollutants that aren’t always visible to the naked eye, she noted.

“Gases are essentially invisible. Try to prove harm and they will deny it and try to get away with it until a lot of people get angry about it,” she said of drilling companies.

She believes people signing leases are putting trust in a “fake science pushed by industry.” Those who do sign have less pull when it comes to court battles, she added.

“If you sign you lose water rights. If you do sign you don’t have the legality to complain about it,” she said, and again urged council to put a moratorium on fracking in village limits.

Elzer said his proposal – and the leasing being considered by the village for municipal land only over the last few years – has been for a non-drill lease, but that argument did not persuade Georgescu.

“Fracking can be a mile below you and that still makes it fracking,” she replied.

Grandview Avenue resident Becky Foster said three people contacted her after seeing her comments in the Journal from the last meeting, including one man from Carroll County.

She said Charles Thorp told her that when he tested his water before the drilling it was fine but after drilling it showed methane gas was present.

“He said, ‘Please, please, please tread lightly on this and go slowly we have had people that have lost their whole wells,'” she said.

To Figley she said, “I think it’s like everything else, Fran. It doesn’t always happen but it happens once and it happens here, what do we do?”

Figley then accused the residents of coming to council meetings to try to “shut it down.”

“Is there something wrong with asking the people what they think? What’s wrong with it? You say we are promoting it, we are not promoting it,” he said.

He went on to say he does not have a dog in the fight, although Foster argued that as a homeowner he does, at which point Figley said he would donate any money raised from his personal property through a lease either to the village or his church.

“You guys can keep your heads in the sand,” he said.

He then said he believes people who are against the idea have personal vendettas against Elzer. Councilwoman Endia Wisser added she believes it is because they are jealous of him, which Figley agreed with.