Top Ohio Oil & Gas Regulator Lauds State Regulation
This week, Rick Simmers, Chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources — Division of Oil & Gas Resources, traveled to Washington, DC, to explain to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee that Ohio’s hydraulic fracturing and Class II injection well program is properly regulated by the state — and has a track record to prove it. As Energy In Depth has extensively covered, Ohio imposes more stringent regulation than even the federal EPA, which has jurisdiction over injection wells. When the state improved their oversight with Senate Bill 315, existing regulation was already lauded by STRONGER, an EPA-supported review group composed of state regulators and other experts.
Simmers told the committee that his inspectors can enforce regulation properly because they live in operating areas and can reach emergencies and inspections quickly. He said Ohio has issued 596 permits for horizontal development in the Utica Shale, and of those, 293 have been drilled and 81 and have been completed. He said their team of fifty field inspectors is doing a great job and can hire more if needed:
“We welcome any review of our program because we’re doing a great job. We are both better suited and better situated to run this program than the federal EPA.” —Rick Simmers (Official testifies on Ohio fracking oversight, 4/17/13)
When the D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating incidents were brought up during the testimony, Simmers explained they could be used as an example of ODNR doing its job:
“If it was not for the on-the-ground efforts of ODNR’s oil and gas inspectors, this criminal and environmentally threatening illegal activity of dumping oilfield waste directly into the Mahoning River could still be occurring. Only with the proper resources and experienced staff could this type of action have been executed so swiftly.” —Rick Simmers (Official testifies on Ohio fracking oversight, 4/17/13)
Without proper research, some would disagree Ohio is doing a great job. An out-of-state reporter from ShaleReporter.com — part of the Beaver County Times — claimed that Ohio is essentially a disaster zone with little to no regulatory oversight:
“Despite a history marked with fracking catastrophes, Ohio still wants to retain oversight of its hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal industry.” –Rachel Morgan (Ohio tells feds: Stay off fracking, 4/18/13)
Ohio has no history of “fracking catastrophes” — convenient how the specific examples of incidents from fracking were omitted, isn’t it? — and that’s due to strong state oversight. Morgan instead focuses on the dubious fracking-earthquake nexus that she tried to invent a few months ago, citing a handful of specific events instead of the thousands upon thousands of wells that have operated without incident. But why would an actual reporter bother with such details?
For the sake of discussion, however, let’s now look at just how stringent Ohio’s regulation of oil and gas truly is, contrary to the narrative that ShaleReporter.com wants us all to believe.
Energy In Depth has made many comparisons between ODNR’s regulation and the federal regulation it bests. Since Ohio received primacy of the UIC program in 1983, over 200 million barrels of brine have been processed without a single case of groundwater contamination. Environmentalists recently expressed a desire for oversight by the federal government, which means they are ironically pushing for more lax regulation (albeit with an EPA they feel they can manipulate much more easily). Here are some examples of how ODNR’s rules are more stringent than the federal EPA’s:
|Comparison of Ohio’s Class II Brine Injection Regulations with USEPA Regulations|
|Ohio Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management||United States Environmental Protection Agency|
|Unannounced inspections, on average, every 11-12 weeks.||One inspection done per well each year by EPA consultant.|
|Continuous mechanical integrity monitoring or monthly mini-tests to demonstrate continuous mechanical integrity.||Demonstration of mechanical integrity at least once every five years.|
|Injection volumes greater than 200 barrels per day require a ½-mile area of review of all other wells. Less than 200 barrels per day is a ¼-mile radius.||All Class II wells shall be cased and cemented to prevent movement of fluids into or between underground sources of drinking water.|
|ODNR has the authority to require seismic testing and monitoring.||Federal code does not specifically address seismic testing and monitoring.|
As far as well casing standards, Ohio leads the nation in well construction regulation, boasting 54 standards in place:
It’s encouraging to see Ohio’s top oil and gas regulator lauding the state’s well researched legislation and regulation. Ohio’s laws exceed those of the federal government for a reason. The state needs inspections, safety, and rules to insure our resources are developed properly and our economic revitalization continues, and the data prove that the state is meeting that challenge.