A proposal to drill a natural gas well on private property adjacent to Kimpton Middle School may be in the Board of Education's future to consider.

David Beck of Beck Energy in Ravenna told the Board members at their Dec. 5 meeting that he is working with the Armbrusts who own 27 acres at 500 North River Road in Munroe Falls to drill a natural gas well on their property. The well would be totally on the private property, located on its northern point, adjacent and directly east of Kimpton, which is at 380 North River Road.

Beck explained that to get state approval, he must have a unit of 40 acres and the cooperation of any landowner within 500 feet of the proposed drilling site.

"I need to use some acres on Kimpton Middle School to make a drilling unit," Beck said. For the district, it would be a non-drilling lease of about 13 acres, with no easement, right-of-way or entrance onto the school property. The well cannot be within 200 feet of an occupied building, such as the school and would not be visible.

"It is not my intent" to have students and staff look out windows and see a pumping unit, he stated. In the case of a natural gas well, it consists only of a pipe sticking out of the ground with a tank battery and meters for safety, he told the Stow Sentry. "We will have a fence around it and locked for safety."

In exchange for the lease, Beck told the Board the district would receive a signing bonus and monthly royalties for a period that could be up to 20 to 25 years.

The landowners would receive free gas in addition to royalties, he added.

Beck told the Stow Sentry on Dec. 8 that he did not have an formal proposals prepared for either the Armbrusts or the school district at this time. He said his presentation at the Dec. 5 meeting "was a chance to tell them what I'd like to do." He said he would like to start drilling next summer if the details can be agreed on.

Landowner James Armbrust also addressed the Board on Dec. 5, saying he had done research on the matter and "we're very comfortable with having Beck Energy putting a well there."

He said the financial benefits would help with the cost of taxes on the property.

Developing the property was not an option the family wanted to consider, he said. "We want to keep it wooded, in its natural state as much as possible."

He said the well would be located 300 feet off the back of the property and 300 feet from the side. "As Mr. Beck mentioned, you wouldn't see it."

When asked if he had contacted the city's administration, Beck said he had not. He referenced past disputes with the city, saying he is "regulated at the state level -- the first person I answer to is at the state level."

Beck Energy and the city have been fighting in court over local control since 2011, first in Summit County Court of Common Pleas, then the Ninth District Court of Appeals and finally the Ohio Supreme Court. The city has argued that the issue is one of home rule while Beck Energy contends that it would be too onerous for drillers to have to follow numerous local ordinances.

A 4-3 Ohio Supreme Court decision in February 2014 ruled that the state has "sole and exclusive authority" over regulation of oil and gas wells and it resulted in the city removing ordinances on its books regulating drilling operations because the decision made them unenforceable.

In the case, Beck Energy obtained permits from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to drill in an area zoned for residential uses along Munroe Falls Avenue. The city challenged the location at 224 Munroe Falls Ave., saying local zoning rules prohibited drilling in the area; instead, drilling should be focused in industrial areas.

In their decision, justices noted that home rule provisions in the state constitution do "not allow a municipality to discriminate against, unfairly impede or obstruct oil and gas activities and production operations that the state has permitted" under state law.

Munroe Falls Mayor James Armstrong confirmed to the Stow Sentry that he had not been contacted about the proposed natural gas well. Given court decisions, "it's unlikely the city really has a whole lot of say in that," he said.

Beck told the Stow Sentry on Dec. 8 that if and when leases are obtained and plans finalized, the city would be notified and included in the steps.

"I didn't make the law. I was prepared if I lost to walk away but I won," Beck said. He noted Beck Energy has had a well at the Twin Falls United Methodist Church on North River Road for eight years, giving the church natural gas and royalties.

When asked what the dangers could be, Beck responded "the biggest question is, 'will you hurt the water?' We have a lot of people making sure it's done safely."

"We are a responsible company. We would not approach [drilling] if we didn't think we could do it safely," Beck said.

Email: mmckenna@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9430