Misinformation Continues as Ohio Seeks to Streamline Access to Information for First Responders
Just a few days ago, Energy In Depth Ohio posted “Ohio Anti-Fracking Activists Want to Delay First Responders from Receiving Important Information”. This reporting was an effort to set the record straight in response to a story entitled “Bill alters reporting of fracking chemicals in Ohio.”
Here we go again: Another article, entitled “Controversial fracking chemical bill the opposite of what ODNR sought” surfaced this week that also muddies the issue of chemical disclosure with the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA).
What is confusing about this article is the assumption that Ohio is somehow just starting to use an online database system. That is simply not the case. As we have stated on numerous occasions over the past few years, HB 94 established an online database back in 2001. In fact, last year, EID reported:
Thanks to the passage of House Bill 94, Ohio established an Oil and Gas Emergency Website at http://oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/well-information/emergency-response. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and Argonne Laboratories for use by fire departments and emergency response agencies to utilize a website to quickly disseminate information on well sites or tank batteries in case of an emergency. This new website updated the paper filing method that was not as efficient as this new digital system. As we all know in an emergency, every second matters.
This new website would be housed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in collaboration with SERC and LEPC. According to ODNR, the website was designed to:
- Improve response times to oil and gas well emergencies by oil and gas well owners, state regulatory personnel and local emergency responders to reduce public health and environmental risks;
- Facilitate full compliance with spill reporting requirements;
- Eliminate burdensome Community-Right-To-Know paper reporting requirements while providing a more efficient, convenient and comprehensive information system for local officials.
In addition, the website provides an interactive GIS based system that allows first responders to determine locations of the well, the wells owner and contact information as well as Material Safety Data Sheets. The project revolutionized EPCRA, bringing the program out of the 1980s and into the 21st century.
This project was heralded by groups for its innovative approach to improving response times to emergency situations. In fact, in 2005 the State Review Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulation (STRONGER) program overview stated:
“Among other things, the website has been recognized at The Council of State
Governments, Midwestern Legislative Conference in July, 2004. The Review Team also wishes to recognize this website as an innovative approach to providing access to emergency response information to responders and the public alike.”- STRONGER, 2005 Ohio Program Review, p.12
As a reminder from our post earlier this week, HB 490, 1509.231, which makes its way to the Ohio Senate further streamlines the way in which first responders are able to obtain this information. In it, we see specific language, which states that the information submitted through the online database will:
Ensure that the information submitted for the database will be made immediately available to the emergency response commission, the local emergency planning committee of the emergency planning district in which a facility is located, and the fire department having jurisdiction over a facility; (3) Ensure that the information submitted for the database includes the information required to be reported under section 3750.08 of the Revised Code and rules adopted under section 3750.02 of the Revised Code. (C) As used in this section, “emergency planning district,” “facility,” and “fire department” have the same meanings as in section 3750.01 of the Revised Code.
The bottom line is this, the online system is not new, it’s simply receiving a facelift to help maintain records and provide quality, timely information to first responders.