The Northeast Ohio communities that want more local regulation of gas and oil well drilling and stricter state regulations just got a new voice.
Lake County resident Kari Matsko has formed the NorthEast Ohio Gas and Accountability Project, or NEOGAP.
"Although we are based out of Lake County, we have a significant population in Cuyahoga and Geauga Counties as well," Matsko said Monday.
"Our ultimate goal is to improve gas/oil regulations in Ohio, but along the way, we are finding it equally important to educate citizens and municipalities on what risks to expect and prepare for while Ohio allows the industry to operate with little to no health/safety or environmental regulations."
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NEOGAP's goals include: returning the regulation of gas wells to municipalities; improving health and safety regulations for the drilling industry; serving as an advocate for those affected by gas wells; and educating the public about the dangers of gas wells in their neighborhoods.
Prior to 2004, drilling companies had to get permission to drill from individual municipalities.
In 2004, the state legislature passed House Bill 278. That turned over regulation and permit issuance for all gas and oil well drilling to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Mineral Resources.
Matsko's own neighborhood in Concord was affected last summer by a hydrogen sulfide gas cloud that came from a drilling rig about a half-mile away.
The gas cloud entered the open windows of homes and caused nose bleeds, headaches, chemical bronchitis, and muscle spasms, she said.
Matsko said the issue affects all of Northeast Ohio and said she has heard from residents in Geauga, Cuyahoga and Summit counties.
NEOGAP has been contacted by some of the residents near English Drive in Geauga County.
On Dec. 15, a build-up of methane gas from a nearby drilling operation got into the water wells along English Drive.
The accumulation of gas in the home of Richard and Thelma Payne caused an explosion, knocking the home off its foundation.
At least 26 homes on English, Scotland and Kingswood drives were evacuated after the home of Richard and Thelma Payne, 17975 English Drive blew up.
The methane leak contaminated the water wells in at least 26 homes, as well as the water well at the nearby Bainbridge police department.