Ohio Fracking Review: April 2012

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued 28 permits for natural gas drilling in April, down from 37 in March. Chesapeake Energy once again lead the pack with 15 new permits approved, bringing the Oklahoma-based company’s portfolio to 148. The total number of fracking permits stands at 220, with more than half (111) approved in 2012 alone.

Governor Kasich’s mid-biennium review on energy, Senate Bill 315, had its first hearings in the Senate this past month. Testifying before the Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee on April 24, a representative for the Ohio Environmental Council raised concerns about ground water quality testing and chemical disclosure related to the fracking procedure, which currently would only be required after drilling has begun.  “”After the fact, chemical disclosure is meaningless for communities and citizens who are trying to protect their drinking water.” Innovation Ohio recommended in its February fracking report that drillers be required to submit disclosures and water testing prior to stimulation of the well .

Ohio Oil and Gas Association Executive Vice President testified on April 25 that disclosure requirements would be too burdensome on companies, requiring them to disclose unrelated materials such as paint. He also said that groundwater testing standards were unreasonable and that other measures in the bill would prove onerous for business.

On April 18, the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on HB 345, a proposed moratorium on horizontal hydraulic facturing. Proponents cited the health hazards related to fracking chemicals, and urged legislators to wait for a U.S. EPA groundwater study before allowing fracking to continue. Legislators also debated proposals for a wastewater disposal moratorium (HB 418), a ban on drilling under Lake Erie (HB 304), and a requirement that drilling companies capture all of the methane that escapes from their wells (HB 464).

On April 9, the Ohio chapter of the Sierra Club sued the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to obtain data regarding a new program that would allow natural gas drilling in state parks. The lawsuit came after five months of silence on a public records request for the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission, created last year by HB 133 to oversee drilling in state parks. Four days after filing the lawsuit, ODNR released documents detailing the proposed fracking rules, including requirements that wells be at least 300 feet from campgrounds and waterways

Documents and emails released on April 23 detailed the evolution of these proposed rules, revealing that state regulators had been communicating with oil companies as the regulations were being written. Documents revealed that the 300 foot buffer zone was a retreat from the original proposal of 1,500 feet.

On the national level, the EPA released new clean-air standards for fracking, aiming to reduce 95% of smog-causing pollutants, as well as carcinogenic chemicals and greenhouse gases. The agency estimates that industry will be more than able to recover the costs of meeting these new standards by capturing and selling methane emissions. Bowing to industry concerns about the availability of the necessary equipment and training, the agency delayed implementation until 2015.