Appalachian Basin

Beacon Journal: Turning Waste Into Wealth for Ohio

A couple days removed from the Columbus Dispatch story on the regulated use of injection wells in Ohio, the Akron Beacon Journal follows up on the issue today, with reporter Bob Downing providing lots of good facts and figures – and also a great profile of a few local folks who continue to benefit from the safe disposition of wastewater deep underground.

In doing so, Downing touches on one of the big differences between Ohio and Pennsylvania, where landowners last year collected more than $1.8 billion in rents and royalties alone as a result of Marcellus development. But that $1.8 billion came only from wells that produce natural gas. Here in Ohio, not only will royalties come in the form of energy production at the beginning of the process, but for some folks, they’ll also be generated at the end when it comes time to dispose of the water.

The Beacon Journal tracks the story of one gentleman who’s been collecting rents for years – Roger Root of Trumbell County. According to the Mr. Root: We didn’t have Christmas for a couple of years, but the payments made sure that the taxes were paid and that we didn’t lose the farm. It helped save our farm. It saved us.” And all this, remember, from a well that isn’t even producing oil or natural gas.

Of course, for everything the paper gets right in its piece today, it somehow forgets to mention in its nearly 1,800-word piece that injection wells aren’t just regulated ODNR – they’re regulated federally by EPA as well. As we wrote last week in our rebuttal to the Dispatch series, injection wells have been used in the United States since the 1930s – not just by oil and natural gas producers, but by manufacturers, mining folks, chemical companies, and just about every other industrial entity you can imagine.

But no one in Ohio has really heard of injection wells ‘til now, have they? And there’s a pretty good reason for that. According to ODNR: “We have not had any subsurface contamination of groundwater since we took over the program in 1983.” According to EPA, there are more than 144,000 wastewater injection wells in operation today in the United States – with those wells capturing and permanently storing more than two billion barrels of brine each and every day.

Compare that to Ohio: 181 wells, 168 million gallons over a four year span. Not exactly the “flood of wastewater” described by the Dispatch last week, is it? Heck, we’re barely even a rounding error.

Of course, what may be a “rounding error” from a national perspective is much more significant than for more than a few Ohio residents directly benefiting from the work. You see, not only are benefits accruing to Roger Root, but local Ohio businesses are also taking advantage – especially the ones who haul that water around.

The Beacon Journal mentions one such person: Ray Pander of Palmyra Township. According to his website, Ray hauls water at $74 an hour – and collects an additional $1 for every gallon of brine he disposes of. Currently, Ray’s trucking company employs 30 people and features a fleet of 22 trucks. But with the Utica Shale coming online, no one should be surprised when ol’ Ray hangs the “Help Wanted” outside his office in Newton Falls.

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