Appalachian Basin

Mansfield Law Director Misses Facts on Injection Wells

Recently, the City of Mansfield’s Law Director, John Spon, has made a string of misleading statements on Class II injection wells to the Mansfield News Journal as a part of his campaign to pass an anti oil and gas development “Bill of Rights” amendment to the city’s charter.  His statements not only miss facts, but they also hinder business and industry development that could come to Mansfield and bring much needed jobs to the region.

First, let’s get a background on Ohio injection wells.  Injection wells have been regulated by the U.S. EPA for nearly 40 years under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  In that time there have been over 144,000 Class II injection wells permitted and constructed in the United States.  Here in Ohio, our Class II Injection well program is regulated under the Ohio Department of Natural Resources after they received primacy from the U.S. EPA in 1985. The use of injection wells as a safe disposal means for produced water in Ohio was mandated in April 1985 with the passage of House Bill 501, a bipartisan bill that was signed into law by Governor Celeste.  Ohio has permitted 181 injection wells for disposal of produced water from oil and natural gas development.

The oil and gas industry isn’t the only industry that has used injection wells as a safe and well-regulated disposal means. Other sectors that rely on injection wells include: chemicals, manufacturing, food and agriculture, plastics and metal/steel among others.

According to EPA: “Injection [is] a safe and inexpensive option for the disposal of unwanted … industrial byproducts.”

Now, let’s find the truth behind Spon’s statements:

Spon says this proposed charter amendment is the means to assert a voice for local residents when it comes to industrial development that might affect quality of air, water and life—(Environmental Bill of Rights Needed 10/16/12)

Mr. Spon has, apparently, not done his homework on the regulations the state has already put in place – rules and regulations that are arguably the most stringent in the nation. These rules have been put in place to ensure protection for our quality of air, water, and life, and far exceed national standards set forth by the EPA.  In gaining primacy from the EPA, the federal government has recognized Ohio has set standards beyond what is stipulated by the national environmental regulatory body.

  • Federal regulations require one well inspection each year and a demonstration of mechanical integrity at least once every five years.
  • Ohio has unannounced inspections every 11-12 weeks and continuous mechanical integrity monitoring or monthly mini-tests to demonstrate continuous mechanical integrity to ensure proper well functionality.  All new wells in Ohio are required to be continuously monitored and will include an automatic shut-off device set to terminate operations if the permitted maximum allowable surface injection pressure is exceeded.

That means that injection wells in Ohio exceed U.S. EPA standards, are inspected at least four times a year, are monitored 24 hours a day, and can be shut off by operators, or regulators, at a moment’s notice.

Also beyond inspectors, monitoring and environmental safeguards, new regulations are also in place to address seismic concerns.  As a result of regulatory changes agreed to by all parties, ODNR can require a variety of tests to determine if faults exist in an area where a disposal well is planned.  These tests include:

  • Pressure fall-off testing to ensure tight seals in the reservoir and casing
  • Geological investigation of potential faulting within the immediate vicinity of the proposed injection well location, which may include seismic surveys or other methods determined by the chief which will give not only the operator
  • Monitoring seismic activity
  • Radioactive tracer or spinner survey
  • Gamma ray, compensated density-neutron, and resistivity geophysical logging suite on all newly drilled injection wells to determine slight fractures in unknown geological regions of the state

Mr. Spon also misleads readers on other state’s regulation:

Spon told council some of the fluid reportedly will come from Pennsylvania, where its disposal has been banned. He said New York also recently banned waste fluid injection—Mansfield eyes tougher injection wells 10/17/12

Not sure where Mr. Spon recieved this information, but it is obvious that he did not research what the anti-development crowd told him to be fact.  Pennsylvania does in fact have 5 active disposal wells in the state with more being permitted and New York has 3 active disposal wells.  Unfortunately neither Pennsylvania nor New York has primacy over their program, so operators must acquire their UIC permits directly from the EPA.  These permits take longer to obtain from the EPA than Ohio because in Ohio ODNR has a program specifically tasked with oversight of operating Class II UIC wells.

There are also geologic factors that don’t make Pennsylvania and New York as suitable for injection wells as Ohio.  As you move further to the east geologic formations change and are far deeper than comparable formations in Ohio.  For geologic purposes and Ohio’s history of significant oil and gas development are the two main reasons we are acquiring the fluids from out of state not because they have been banned as Mr. Spon incorrectly assumed.

Spon’s third misleading statement:

Without evidence that directly ties specific contaminants to a specific company delivering fracking fluid to the disposal site, the city and nearby landowners could never prove who was responsible for any pollution, Spon said.—Mansfield voters will decide city’s rules for fracking waste 10/9/12

Mr. Spon is really reaching here.  At the end of the day, the operator of the disposal well is always ultimately responsible for any damages, not a company who delivers or produces brine.  Being an attorney Mr. Spon should know that.  He also makes brine out to be an illegal substance, which it is not.  Disposal wells are the preferred method of disposal by the EPA and there has never been any case where brine has migrated from the injected formation back to the drinking in Ohio since Ohio gained primacy of its program.

Clearly, Mansfield needs to be shown facts before making a decision to deter business from coming to the area.  As EID has covered before, Mansfield, Ohio is not in a position to create regulations that will hurt its chance for a better economy.

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