Updated Tue, Mar 4, 2014 10:05 am
The group that is trying to get fracking banned in the Athens city limits is asking the city of Marietta to vote against a proposal to lease up to 95 acres of city property to an oil and gas company.
On Monday, the Athens Bill of Rights Committee issued a news release urging Marietta’s city council to “avoid taking an irrevocable vote to allow oil and gas drilling” inside its community.
“The matter should be brought before the public for dialogue and a democratic vote. The city belongs to the people,” the news release states.
The committee’s news release is in response to Marietta discussing the possibility of advertising for bids to lease oil and gas rights on up to 95 acres of city-owned property. Marietta City Council could vote on the matter as early as Thursday, according to The Marietta Times.
According to an article in The Marietta Times on Feb. 27, MNW Energy LLC, an investor/buyer for Tulsa, Okla.-based Protégé Energy III, has offered to lease 35 acres of city property that would join 6,100 surrounding acres for a horizontal fracturing operation. The drilling would take place outside of the city limits.
The Marietta Times reports that the MNW offer would lease the city property for $4,750 an acre, plus a 17.5 percent royalty based on any resources extracted from the operation.
Marietta Councilman Michael Mullen was quoted as saying that the upfront money would be a “great windfall for the city” and that the drilling operation would take place whether the city agrees to the lease or not.
While the MNW offer was only for 35 acres behind the Walmart shopping complex, Marietta city administration has suggested offering an additional 60 acres of city property to the gas and oil industry.
The additional property, according to The Times, would include “city garage property off Alderman Street, Buckeye Park property, and the Kroger wetlands off Acme Street.”
All the property up for consideration is in close proximity to the Ohio River and Duck Creek.
In its news release, the Athens Bill of Rights Committee lays out three options for the city of Marietta to take.
“The worse option is to invite the oil and gas industry into the city without a public debate, and without City Council even knowing what the majority of the voters want.
That outcome would not only be undemocratic, it would be irreversible,” the news release states.
The committee says a second option is for Marietta Council to prevent fracking by passing an ordinance refusing to cooperate with the oil and gas industry.
“That would be the swiftest way to guarantee the public health and safety… The third possibility — and the best option by far — is to put the question before the people in the form of a legislative referendum. That way the people affected by the governing decision will be the ones to pass the law,” the news release states.
Marietta City Council is slated to hold a regular meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Lookout Park. It’s unclear if a vote on the issue will be taken then.
The Athens Bill of Rights Committee is the group that is responsible for getting a fracking ban initiative on the November ballot in the city of Athens.
If passed, the legislation would ban fracking and associated practices within the Athens city limits.