Appalachian Basin

Throwback: Activists Use Long Debunked Claims In Attempt to Stop Oil, Natural Gas Development Under Ohio State Lands

Watching the Ohio Oil & Gas Land Management Commission’s June meeting on leasing the state’s mineral rights and recent coverage of a related protest is like taking a time machine back to 2013.

Fortunately, many of the concerns raised about fracking, produced water management and other related issues are ones that have been put to rest with factual data compiled from nearly two decades of shale development in the Appalachian Basin and across the country, including in Ohio where producers have been responsibly developing oil and natural gas in the Utica and Marcellus shales since 2011.

Let’s take a closer look:

Claim: Shale development cannot coexist with recreation and conservation and will impact visitors to state parks.

Across Ohio, there are various examples of the energy industry working cohesively with local communities and public entities to create mutually beneficial partnerships. For instance, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) has become a record-setting tourist attraction despite the energy development within its borders.

In fact, MWCD has received more than $200 million in investments in campgrounds and other amenities funded by oil and natural gas revenues. The partnership has been so beneficial, the district agreed to develop 7,300 additional acres of land in the Utica Shale, where the MWCD will receive $5,500 per acre, paid over five years, and gross royalty of 20 percent.

Claim: Ohio’s oil and gas producers are exempt from disclosing frack fluid solutions, jeopardizing communities and leaving first responders unprepared.

This claim has been repeatedly debunked over the years.

First, Ohio’s oil and gas operators are required by law to disclose fluid solutions to ODNR and on FracFocus, a publicly accessible database, within 60 days of completion of a well.

While this does allow companies to protect proprietary information on the FracFocus website – the same as countless other industries across varied sectors – Ohio’s Senate Bill 315, which was passed in 2012, ensures that the amount, concentration, and chemical composition of fracking fluids be made available to state regulators and officials, as well as physicians, should a need arise.

Claim: Water consumption for energy use is not regulated.

Water withdrawals are strictly regulated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Water Resources: According to ODNR:

  • Section 1521.16of the Ohio Revised code requires any owner of a facility, or combination of facilities, with the capacity to withdraw water at a quantity greater than 100,000 gallons per day (GPD) to register such facilities with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Water. The Water Withdrawal Facility Registration (WWFR) Program provides information of great importance to the citizens of the state. Water, one of our most basic and precious natural resources, needs to be studied more intensely and water resource planners need reliable information to plan for the future. The state’s economy depends on water and economic development will continue to place increased demands on this critical resource.” (emphasis added)
  • Any facility that is registered with the Division of Water Resources must complete and submit an annual report of all water withdrawn in a calendar year. Reports must also be submitted even if no water was withdrawn. This reporting applies to ground water withdrawals, surface water withdrawals or any combination of the two. These reports are due by March 1st of each year.” (emphasis added)

Further, any facility withdrawing more than 100,000 gallons per day from the Ohio River Watershed must first obtain a permit, and any facility withdrawing more than an average two million gallons per day in any 30-day period from any waters of the state must also first have a permit.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency also employs comprehensive water resource monitoring through the Ohio Water Resource Committee, a forum designed to influence policy development and coordination among state agencies to conserve water. The agency issued guidance for public entities selling water for shale development in 2012.

Claim: The management of brine is not regulated.

The management of oil and natural gas produced water – or brine – is also strictly regulated in Ohio. Nearly 98 percent of brine is safely disposed of in Class II wells that are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act and by ODNR.

As EID has previously explained, ODNR received primacy in 1983 and has since been consistently recognized for having more stringent rules than those set by the federal government. According to Ohio EPA:

“The direct discharge of brine into waters of the state is prohibited. Ohio is not authorizing the disposal of brine at municipal wastewater treatment plants (also called publicly owned treatment works or POTWs). Brine disposed of in Ohio must be sent to an ODNR-permitted Class II injection well. Where feasible, recycled flowback water may be reused in another drilling operation or other manner approved by ODNR.”

Trucks that transport brine must also keep daily logs.

Claim: Shale development is impacting regional health.

Most research that has been used to support claims of health impacts from shale development in the Appalachian Basin and beyond has consistent limitations and flawed methodology: Namely that researchers don’t take samples to identify pathways of exposure and concentrations.

When samples are taken, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that shale development in the Appalachian Basin is protective of public health. In fact, the activist who wrote a 2012 memo encouraging anti-fracking groups to connect health problems and fracking even when no evidence existed to support the claims co-authored a 2019 report where he admitted that the vast majority of scientific research shows no harmful air pollutants near oil and natural gas sites. As the report explains:

“Air pollution near oil and gas production typically measures in concentrations within healthy air standards…”

Research in Ohio has found similar results when studying environmental impacts, and in 2019, the Ohio Department of Health acknowledged that reports of health impacts from shale development are minimal. As Rebecca Fugitt from the department’s Bureau of Environmental Health and Radiation Protection told StateImpact:

“No, we only get, maybe… it’s less than five a year…to be honest, it really is. We don’t get very many.”

Similarly, ODNR said they had received 10 complaints in 11 years in 2019.

Claim: Oil and natural gas will not be needed long-term.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2023 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) finds that oil and natural gas will be here for the long haul. The report projects that U.S. energy production will remain high, exports will grow, and natural gas consumption will remain stable as renewable energies integrate onto the grid through 2050.

Natural gas from the Appalachian Basin will play a major role in ensuring manufacturers and utilities alike have an abundant, affordable feedstock. As JobsOhio President J.P. Nauseef recently explained:

“Manufacturers worldwide are now realizing that Ohio is one of the most advantageous states for natural gas and natural gas liquids consumption – that feedstock, combined with our infrastructure, access to end-use markets, and the highly-skilled workforce that calls Ohio home.”

With increasing stress on U.S. power grids, as well as global tension threatening energy security, natural gas and oil will remain essential to providing dispatchable power across the globe.

In fact, the U.S. was the top exporter of LNG in the first half of 2022 and is projected to become the largest LNG producer in the world by 2027.

Claim: There is no history of oil and natural gas operators in Ohio being good actors.

Ohio’s oil and natural gas industry has consistently invested in local communities, supporting education and infrastructure improvements along with various other initiatives.

API Ohio Executive Director Chris Zeigler underscored:

“From supporting local businesses, to spearheading pivotal research and development, and promoting the advancement of education and training opportunities, natural gas and oil are vital to our state’s long-term prosperity and success. With the right policies in place, Ohio is well-positioned to be a leader in delivering solutions to today’s energy challenges.”

In 2021, the industry supported more than 350,000 jobs, generated $25.4 billion in income, and contributed over $55.5 billion in Ohio’s GDP. The oil and gas industry provides both essential resources for all Ohioans, as well as family-sustaining jobs across the value chain.

A recent JobsOhio report finds that since 2011, the total investment in Ohio has been more than $100 billion. While an Ohio Oil and Gas Association and Ohio Natural Energy Institute analysis found the industry has paid more than $349 million in ad valorem taxes since 2010.

But it’s more than monetary investment. Here are just a few recent examples of ways Ohio’s oil and gas industry is stepping up in their communities:

The Bottom Line: Ohio’s oil and natural gas industry is essential to the Buckeye State and has been responsibly and safely producing the state’s energy resources for more than a decade – both under public and private lands. And there’s a wealth of documentation to prove it.

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