Appalachian Basin

New Report Counters Activists’ Claims on Ohio Injection Well Program

A recently released  report by StatesFirst, an initiative of the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, highlights how Ohio regulators have successfully implemented Ohio’s Class II injection well program.

Interestingly enough, the StatesFirst report identified the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) injection well program as a case study for best practices.  The report specifically singled out effective communication efforts by ODNR after the March 2014 seismic event outside the Youngstown area, which led to regulatory changes, including more stringent permitting requirements and seismic monitoring. According to the report,

“the messaging rollout was successful as ODNR was able to provide key points to a number of media outlets and avoid much of the misunderstanding that often takes hold following a seismic event.”

This new report is the second report in a month to commend the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for the implementation and management of the Environmental Protection Agency’s preferred method of oilfield disposal.  If follows a recent report by the EPA, which concluded that Ohio runs a “good quality program” and highlighted five noteworthy areas where the state received particularly strong remarks.

When it comes to class II injection wells, anti-fracking activists have made it their mission to use scare tactics  as part of their efforts to invoke local control and moratoriums on drilling.  They’ve often claimed that Ohio regulators are keeping the public in the dark about the permitting and the management of Ohio’s class II injection wells.  In fact, the misinformation over injection wells has been so out of control, that a member of the Athens County Fracking Action Network, traveled across the state to present a completely misleading slideshow that featured “fireballs reaching the sky and pillars of smoke rising above communities — images from numerous injection well disasters across the country.”

Activist groups even called on the federal government, requesting an audit of Ohio’s program and asking that the EPA regain control of the state’s authority to regulate injection wells, penning a 15 page fact-free letter citing a host of technical and procedural “violations” made by Ohio regulators.  The EPA responded by conducting a full-scale audit of Ohio’s UIC program, and much to the activists’ dismay, EPA gave the state high marks for its management of the program. EPA found that “the current process is consistent with the approved primacy program description.”  EPA went on to note:

“EPA is aware that some nongovernmental organizations and citizens in Ohio are concerned that public hearings are not held on request, that informational meetings are held in lieu of hearings, or that ODNR determines that comments received on specific wells did not require permit changes or public hearings. However, these ODNR decisions are within the bounds of the EPA-approved program.”

Addressing the induced seismicity issue, the StatesFirst report rightfully pointed out that fracking does not pose a credible threat for earthquakes and that “only a few dozen of these wells are believed to have induced felt earthquakes.”  Ohio regulators have taken extensive actions to mitigate and manage injection well programs. This is something that the Buckeye State should be proud of.  As Ohio Department of Natural Resource Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers recently stated with the release of the StatesFirst report,

 “It is safe,” Simmers said of wastewater injection. “We monitor the operations very carefully as do our counterparts in other states.”

In other words, the state is meeting the criteria to address public inquiries and the overall permit process.

The StatesFirst report released this week provided another dose of good news for Ohioans and that is Ohio leading the way when it comes to “best practices” of the management and communication surrounding injection wells.  It appears that the only card activists can actually play is to state they simply are opposed to injection wells for personal reasons or ideologies, as their onslaught of claims against Ohio’s program continue to be debunked by the federal government, the Ground Water Protection Council, state regulators from across the country, geologists, seismologists and academics.

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