Opposition to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) flared up in Ohio last week after about 100 protestors stormed an office and a water handling facility in one town, while an oil and gas oilfield service company threatened to take its business elsewhere if another town were to oppose drilling.

The protestors’ attack was launched at facilities operated by GreenHunter Energy Inc. in Ohio last Tuesday, causing a six-hour disruption that ended peacefully but resulted in the arrest of 10 protesters.

Meanwhile, Philpott Rubber Co., which provides products and services for oil and natural gas drillers in the Utica Shale, said it may decide against expanding its operations in Brunswick, OH, if the city council passes a resolution that advocates giving municipalities “home rule” powers over oil and gas drilling.

“Imagine a city that, for no good reason, becomes the poster child for anti-economic development at a level like I’ve never seen,” Philpott CEO Mike Baach told NGI. “Are energy customers going to want to see us pulling up with a truck with that city name on it?”

Grapevine, TX-based GreenHunter said the employees at facilities in New Matamoras were “held hostage” by the protesters during the incident, which began at about 10:30 a.m. EST. Reports said the protesters stole keys and attempted to clog toilets at the company’s offices. One protester erected a 30-foot pole and chained it to the fence of the water handling facility and a brine disposal truck. The protester then climbed and remained atop the pole for the duration of the protest.

According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, all 10 of the arrested protesters have been charged with criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor, and were processed into the county jail. They range in age from 21 to 34, but only three were from Ohio. The protester who was reportedly atop the pole was also charged with resisting arrest, which is also a misdemeanor.

In a statement, GreenHunter said the protesters’ actions “are subject to felony charges, which may include violations under the Anti-Terrorism Act…the company has hired legal counsel and plans to pursue all legal remedies available under the law against those individuals and organizations that were involved in today’s illegal activities.” GreenHunter said its business operations were restored at 4 p.m. Tuesday and that there didn’t appear to be any physical damage to its property or equipment. The company said its facility in New Matamoras only handles salt water from oil and natural gas wells in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; the facility doesn’t accept or process hazardous waste.

In Brunswick, the city council is scheduled to vote Monday (Feb. 25) on Resolution No. 4-13, which calls on the Ohio General Assembly “to repeal any and all laws that preempt local control over oil and natural gas extraction and associated risky industrial activity.” Brunswick is located in Medina County.

Baach said his company would not expand to accommodate the growing business of its new subsidiary, Philpott Energy & Transportation Co. Ltd. (PETCO), if the city passes the resolution. PETCO’s list of products includes completion fluid, completion beads, friction reducer and viscosifiers, and it deploys mobile chemical hydration units to drilling sites. Baach said the company is sensitive to the issue because transportation laws require that its trucks be emblazoned with a placard listing the truck’s home city and state.

“This is not an idle threat,” Baach said. “The city can do what it wants, and it will do what it wants, but it’s ridiculous. You work hard and you spend a lot of money on marketing. There is no more anti-marketing approach than to look like you’re supporting somebody that is, for no good reason, anti-shale gas development.”

Several grassroots organizations are lobbying the state government to grant local governments home rule powers, which they could then use to regulate oil and gas activities (see NGI, Sept. 10, 2012). Nevertheless, an appeals court recently ruled in favor of Beck Energy Corp. and against the City on Munroe Falls in a regulatory dispute (see NGI, Feb. 11).

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