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Clean up or pack up: Request to Stark County Zoning Board to build natural gas facility tabled until old oil pit sites are reclaimed

An oil reserve pit, dug by Oil for America Exploration more than a year ago, remains open near a farmstead west of Taylor on Saturday. Bob Angerer was working with Oil for America Exploration when this pit was dug. Now he's back with Edog Manifest LLC with a request to build a natural gas procesing facility near Patterson Lake. The Stark County Zoning Board tabled the request, telling Angerer to close the six oil pits that remain open near Taylor.

A major oil player needs to "get his act together" before he can build a natural gas processing facility near Patterson Lake, said Jay Elkin, Stark County Zoning Board commissioner.

It has been more than a year since Bob Angerer dug up six oil sites near Taylor, Elkin said Saturday, and the developer has yet to close reserve pits that threaten surrounding farmland, livestock and heavily-used water sources.

"These reserve pits were running over last year, and that presents a dilemma," Elkin said. "They not only present an eye sore, but an environmental hazard."

Elkin, who lives close to the six unattended pits, said he and his neighbors are constantly on Angerer's case to clean up his mess, and they are losing patience.

"As a commissioner, it is my responsibility when I know that there's some wrongdoing taking place out there," he said. "I don't believe that the citizens of this county should end up having to use taxpayer dollars to reclaim these sites."

Angerer, who represented Oil for America Exploration when the pits were originally dug, approached the county zoning board Thursday, asking for permission to build a natural gas processing facility on a 320-acre tract of land 1 mile west of Patterson Lake. In light of his failure to properly clean up the old dig sites, commissioners gave Angerer an ultimatum: clean up or pack up.

Commissioners tabled Angerer's request, and will not grant Angerer permission to break ground until he tends to the open pits.

"We have to ask you to at least address those situations out there," Elkin said. "The problem I have is we still have a group of citizens out there that still have reserve pits on their land."

Angerer said he is working to secure the old digging sites.

"Three of the six (reserve pits) are closed, and a fourth one is in the process of being closed," Angerer said. "And I have an arrangement that I signed with a gentleman to close the other two shortly."

Elkin disagrees. He said most of Angerer's sites appear to be untouched.

"He's made promises to these individuals almost on a monthly basis that he will be back, but he has yet to come back," Elkin said. "It's a horrendous mess."

On Saturday, Elkin pointed to a blackened sludge-filled pit near a farmstead west of Taylor.

"What is all that stuff?" he asked. "It's obvious there's something other than just water there. It would be froze."

During Thursday's meeting Angerer represented Edog Manifest LLC, a company with which he holds partial ownership. He insisted his former dealings with Oil for America Exploration do not relate to his current endeavors.

"(Oil for America Exploration) has nothing to do with this company at all," Angerer told commissioners.

Elkin thinks Angerer is splitting hairs, and should take account for his lack of proper action.

"(Angerer) needs to take and be responsible for what his other companies have done," Elkin said. "I drive by these situations because I farm in this neighborhood, and I see what's going on."

Sensible efforts to clean up would involve removing scoria and excess pipe, restoring top soil and closing pits entirely, Elkin said.

"It's about reclaiming the land back to its natural state, and he has not done that," he said.

Until Angerer cleans up, he is at a standstill. Considering his track record, residents are hesitant to support the proposed natural gas facility.

"It's so close to Patterson Lake," said Glen Larson, a public patron who spoke during Thursday's meeting. "There always used to be antelope and wildlife out there. That's all gone."

Elkin said most oil companies he has worked with have cleaned out their reserve pits within 30 days of completion. Although he finds it saddening, he understands why people like Larson find it hard to support additional oil growth.

"One oil company can really place a black eye on the rest," he said.