Posts tagged "Ohio Senate Bill 165"
Ohio Striking a Balance
Friday, January 27th, 2012 | 0 Comments
While I currently serve as a Technical Director of Natural Resources Management for BHE Environmental in Columbus, I had the opportunity to serve the State of Ohio through regulation of the State’s oil & gas, coal, and industrial minerals mining industries, as the Chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mineral Resources Management (DMRM; 2000-2006). During my 27 years of experience across Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, my mission as a regulator of energy resource extraction was to strike a balance between the protection of people and the environment with society’s need for economical and available energy resources. Responsible regulation requires agencies to enact the State’s environmental laws in a manner that manages those impacts consistent with community’s standards that it has adopted as laws and rules. Many people fail to recognize the important role that responsible regulation plays in striking a balance for the good of society.
However, in my experience, the Ohio oil & gas industry and the DMRM recognize this balance and strive to achieve it:
Industries provide a service to citizens when they acknowledge the policies communities have established and work to achieve the spirit of them. I found the Ohio oil & gas industry to represent a progressive industry that cooperated with state regulators and proactively communicated with policy makers to achieve the objectives of the State of Ohio. Importantly, I observed that the leading operators promoted a culture within the industry that supported compliance with state and federal standards to advance industry performance as responsible stewards of the environment. In the DMRM I also had the pleasure of leading a team of highly skilled, dedicated, and fair-minded regulatory scientists with advanced academic degrees that worked hard to achieve energy extraction in a safe, environmentally responsible manner.
A good example of the progressive, problem-solving culture exhibited by staff at the DMRM, and the regulated community in Ohio, is STRONGER (State Review of Oil & Natural Gas Environmental Regulations). Many industries and regulators would fear a process organized by a not-for-profit organization that reviews a regulatory program with a team of oil and gas administrators from other states, EPA, industry, and environmental advocates. The DMRM and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association not only do not fear the program, but they embrace this peer review as a way of advancing scientifically sound, and responsible, process improvements to achieve better environmental regulatory results. Ohio’s program has been reviewed three times (1995, 2005, and 2010 with a focus on hydraulic fracturing). STRONGER reported Ohio has been able to adopt 80% of the review recommendations; a percentage that will increase when current regulatory reforms are completed. A good example is the recent landmark legislation, Senate Bill 165 that anticipated the effects of the Utica Shale industry and enacted changes to better protect water quality and increase inspection, among other things.
The Class II Underground Injection Control (UIC) program is another instance where Ohio regulators and industry were proactive. According to the U.S. EPA, the UIC program is the best way to ensure underground sources of drinking water are not contaminated by fluids produced from the extraction of oil and gas.
In the 1980’s Ohio enacted critical reforms to protect Ohio water, citizens, and environment from water pollution. When Ohio prohibited other forms of oil field wastewater disposal, the State sought primacy of the UIC regulatory program from the US EPA. By doing so, it enhanced the industry’s ability to comply with proper handling of wastewater produced in the development process via a closed loop system, therein preventing release of polluted water to the environment. The fore-thought has yielded benefits today, because UIC wells are now accepting hydraulic fracturing fluids from Ohio shale development. This forward thinking has allowed a solution other states have not developed for disposal of a new fluid source. Industry has utilized these wells for decades without significant incident and in so doing has protected the quality of Ohio’s underground drinking water sources and surface waters.
Utica Shale extraction is providing new opportunities and challenges. To meet this test, I see progressive industry leaders going beyond the minimum standards. While state standards require sampling to 300 feet, many companies sample all private water wells 1,000 or more feet to establish baseline conditions so they can respond to complaints with data. Drill pads have safety berms to minimize release of dust and dampen noise. Fences protect people and livestock from entering the development area. Erosion control programs use best management practices to prevent siltation of streams. In my capacity as an environmental consultant I now see the industry carefully siting gathering lines to avoid impacts to streams, wetlands, and other important resources whenever possible.
All development activities can create unintended consequences caused by a wide variety of factors, e.g. weather, equipment failure, human error, neglect, and more. In my experience with ODNR, when unintended consequence did occur, both the industry and the DMRM were quick to react, correct the program, and take measures to prevent future occurrences.
Recent unintended consequences have made the news with regard to earth tremors that are preliminarily believed to have been caused by UIC injection water lubrication of previously unknown deep faults in the earth’s crust. Another story in recent news relates to natural gas reported in a domestic water well. With literally tens of thousands of wells completed in Ohio, the laws of probability predict something will occasionally go wrong. How we as a society react to those errors in terms of problem analysis, problem prevention, and public policy determine if we are able to continue to strike a balance between our nation’s need for energy and protection of our people and natural resources. Based on my experience, I am confident Ohio government and industry will meet the challenge.
Tags: BHE Environmental, Closed Loop System, dmrm, Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids, Mike Sponsler, ODNR, Ohio oil and gas industry, Ohio Senate Bill 165, Ohio Senate Bill 501, oil and gas laws, Primacy, Stronger, UIC, US EPA, water sampling
The Fact and Fiction of Hydraulic Fracturing
Thursday, November 17th, 2011 | 1 Comment
I recently attended a local town hall meeting sponsored by The Network for Oil & Gas Accountability & Protection (NEOGAP) and received a handout titled “FRACKING DANGERS”, written by Linda Schiller-Hanna. The writing, which features a ‘skull and bones graphic’ (shown below), employs scare-tactics and misinformation in an attempt to persuade citizens to join NEOGAP, an organization committed to shutting down the Ohio oil and gas industry. I took several quotes directly out of Schiller-Hanna’s paper (labeled “myths”) and debunked this propaganda with facts.
Myth: “Fracking of deep shale, a technology less than ten years old, has not been proven safe.“
Facts: has conducted several water well investigation complaints. None of the investigations revealed problems due to hydraulic fracturing. Not a single case of drinking water contamination has ever been recorded. Not one.
Hydraulic fracturing makes the impossible possible by allowing us to reach oil and gas trapped in rock beds that would not otherwise naturally produce. This is why 90 percent of wells operating today have been fractured and more than 1 million U.S. wells have safely utilized fracing. To put it in perspective, 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 7 billion barrels of oil have been captured thanks to hydraulic fracture technology (energy that would not have been acquired without it).
The following are quotes from oil and gas regulators across the country. Of course these are just a small sample. Regulators in fifteen states and U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have all stated hydraulic fracturing is a safe technology that does not impact groundwater.
- “There is no indication that hydraulic fracturing has ever caused damage to ground water.” –
- “No Documented Cases of Hydraulic Fracturing Contamination” – The
Myth: “Hydrofracking is now being done without sufficient regulations for safety or protections for the environment.“
1. Revising Ohio Oil and Gas Laws – ), released a report earlier this year finding the “current state regulation of oil and gas activities is environmentally proactive and preventative.” GWPC also says that the “regulation of oil and gas field activities is managed best at the state level where regional and local conditions are understood and where regulations can be tailored to fit the needs of the local environment.”
Myth: “We in Ohio are now literally losing irreplaceable water tables, pristine farmland, and the health and safety of our families as a consequence.“
Facts: There are no documented cases of drinking water contamination tied to hydraulic fracturing. The 2004 when they found “no evidence” of any such risk.
Myth: “The Earth, being what it is, once drilled, the gas isn’t the only thing that rises. Poisonous chemicals, such as arsenic, methane gas, benzene, and other substances resurface into our ground water and leak into our streams, killing wildlife, livestock and poisoning drinking water well.”
Facts: Hydraulic fracturing fluid cannot rise to the surface. Geologically speaking, the bedrock between the fractured site and the surface is so dense that it makes it impossible for fracturing fluid to travel upward thousands of feet, or between rock formations and into freshwater aquifers. Ohio operators must recycle their wastewater or inject the flowback into Class II injection wells that lay thousands of feet underground. Permits for these wells are regulated by DMRM.
The bottom line is that the engineering practices perfected over the last 60 years and effective Ohio regulation ensures the integrity of the water supply and the environment. The EPA and the GWPC have declared the practice is safe, and the fluids non-threatening. Oil and natural gas being produced from hydraulic fracturing has existed for decades in Ohio with no harm to the environment, a situation that will remain the same with the development of the Utica and Marcellus Shale.
Tags: dangers, dmrm, drinking water, EPA, groundwater contamination, GWPC, hydraulic fracture technology, Hydraulic fracturing, Linda Schiller-Hanna, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, NEOGAP, Obama Administration, ODNR, Ohio oil and gas laws, Ohio Senate Bill 165, OOGA, Stronger, Texas Railroad Commission, Tom Stewart, Utica Shale, Victor Carillo, Water well injection