Natural gas fracking continued full tilt in February, as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources approved twenty-three new well permits, an increase from the 19 permits issued in January. None of the new wells, 20 of which will be operated by Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation, have begun drilling yet. The new February permits are located in Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Knox, Mahoning, Portage, and Stark counties. Of the 151 wells permitted since April 2006, 17 are drilling, 23 have been drilled, 9 are completed, and 8 are currently producing gas. The fracking process takes place during the completion stage, in which well operators inject water, sand, and chemicals in order to release the gas or oil. Following the release of Innovation Ohio’s report state legislators formed the Responsible Shale Energy Development caucus to focus legislative efforts to better regulate natural gas companies in the state. On February 8, Attorney General Mike DeWine said that Ohio’s laws were “out of the mainstream”, and called for the disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, as well as tougher fines for polluters. In his on February 7, Governor John Kasich reiterated his belief that environmental regulations shouldn’t slow down the natural gas industry here in Ohio. Kasich said that he doesn’t want “some yahoo” to come in and irresponsibly damage the industry. A week later, the Administration backtracked on a proposal to require drillers to sign a Road Use and Maintenance Agreement with local governments. Such agreements would guarantee that gas companies assist local officials with repairing road damage caused by excessive traffic related to fracking. Contrary to the original intention of the agreement, which originated back in October, the Administration will not require a RUMA prior to approving a permit, leaving local governments to deal with repair costs. In Mansfield, citizens and officials have joined in a fight against two permits for fracking waste disposal wells. City council and community organizers are collecting donations to stop Preferred Fluids Management, a Texas-based company, from transporting and dumping wastewater from Pennsylvania inside the city limits, at the risk of local water safety.
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