Monthly Archives: December 2011

Are Fracking Rules Really Better Under The New ORC Law?

A Confirmation and a Correction

By Bernhard Debatin

Correction of our claim made in earlier post "Submit Your Protest Against Relaxation Of Fracking Rules!"

Responding to the letter campaign to ODNR, Heidi Hetzel-Evans of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, stated today that the amendments and changes to the oil and gas regulations in the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 1501:9 are a mere “house keeping” exercise to keep up with changes in the law. She also said that “we’re definitely strengthening the rules, not reducing or relaxing them.”

However, while the new oil and gas regulations in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 1509 do indeed have some provisions that strengthen regulation, there are many areas where things remain unregulated, or worse, as criticized in this blog, actually loosen or rescind previous rules. Continue reading


Submit Your Protest Against Relaxation Of Fracking Rules!

Send your letter to to by Dec. 23

By Bernhard Debatin

As detailed in the previous post, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is calling for comments on proposed changes to the regulations about fracking. If implemented, the changes will make things considerably easier for the fracking industry without sufficient regard for people’s health, safety, and well-being, and without sufficient protection of the environment.

Here are the four three most serious changes in the draft document for the amendments to the Ohio Administrative Code:

Unconventional disposal (dumping) of wastewater In Wetzel County, WV

1. Wastewater Disposal. Fracking companies no longer need to declare how, where, and with whom they’ll dispose their wastewater. This means that there’s no sufficient oversight by ODNR; there isn’t any closed and monitored chain of accountability between the production of the wastewater and its disposal. Continue reading

ODNR About To Change Fracking Regulations

Comments to ODNR must be submitted by Dec. 23

By Bernhard Debatin

The ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management is currently requesting comments on proposed changes to the rules and regulations for gas and oil drilling and for wastewater injection. Any comments must be submitted to by December 23, 2011.

In Ohio, these rules and regulations are established under Ohio Administrative Code 1501:9. The draft proposal for the revisions can be viewed here, a 105-page long document that shows all changes, amendments, and rescissions.

Following are the most important changes, and a first attempt to interpret their implications. A lot of it is about more “flexibility,” i.e. less oversight and fewer safety precautions. Please note that I am frequently quoting from rescinded language to show what’s no longer required.

Also, please feel free to use the following points in your comments to

Continue reading

Concerned About Fracking? — Part 2: Water Monitoring

What can We Do about this?

By Bernhard Debatin

Fracking is likely to happen in Athens County due to strong economic interests, and with it comes a wide variety of undesirable and unintended consequences. Therefore, the focus of concerned citizens’ activities should be on effective damage control strategies. This part of Concerned About Fracking? will deal with the first of three main damage control strategies: (1) monitoring drinking water. The other two strategies are (2) monitoring community disruption and (3) a moratorium on fracking; they will be explored in the third part of this series.

Obviously, the risk of being affected by accidents and contamination increases the closer one is located to a drilling site. However, water and air pollution travel fast and widely. For instance, it’s not just the landowner’s water well that may get polluted. Aquifers are interconnected underground water systems, usually located in permeable and porous rock through which water can easily move. There’s a good chance that contamination of a water well near a drilling pad may spread through the larger aquifer system.

The most pressing issue is proper monitoring of drinking water sources. Because of the lack of accountability and effective regulation, we have to be seriously concerned that private and municipal water sources will be contaminated. The fracking industry’s track record of wastewater spills, sludge pond overflows, reckless wastewater dumping, and aquifer contamination with fracking chemicals and methane is impressive. Continue reading

Concerned About Fracking? — Part 1: The Three Waves

Here’s why we should be concerned

By Bernhard Debatin

Fracking comes like a storm to the affected areas, and it comes in multiple waves. We’ve seen the first wave in Athens county: the leasing frenzy. All it took was the creation of a purported “last minute opportunity” and many people were willing to sign leases that do not sufficiently protect the interests of the landowners. Some people may notice too late that there are Clauses With Consequences in these contracts, as the New York Times put it in a recent article. A worthwhile list of such regrettable clauses is provided in the NYT “Layman’s Guide to Lease Terms.”

The second, even more forceful wave, is what Paul Feecel, a  landowner from Carroll County and  chair of the Carroll Concerned Citizens group, described as “an invasion” at a recent presentation at the Athens High School (on Dec. 7): Continue reading

Landowners Need to Be Careful What They Sign

By Bernhard Debatin

Landowners in Athens County have recently been approached aggressively to sign leases for their mineral rights so that gas and oil can be extracted from under their land. The technology used for this, known as horizontal hydro-fracking, is highly controversial due to its potential adverse effects on the environment, specifically on the air and our water resources, and due to the lack of proper regulation and oversight.

At the meeting for landowners on Nov. 29, held by local attorney John Lavelle and Cunningham Energy at the Athens County fairgrounds, Lavelle presented a draft of a supposedly “landowner friendly” mineral rights lease. With their talk about a “window of opportunity” and the claim that “no better lease” would be available to landowners, it appears that Cunninghan Energy and Lavelle are creating artificial pressure to talk people into leasing their mineral rights. On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Lavelle and Cunningham will hold another such meeting. Continue reading

Questionable Fracking Leases in Athens County?

By Heather Cantino
(Board Chair, Buckeye Forest Council, and 30-year Athens County resident)

As the fracking boom is coming to Athens county, many landowners are wondering if it is advisable to lease their mineral rights to Cunningham Energy from Charleston, W.Va.,  for hydraulic fracturing. On Tuesday evening (Nov. 29), local attorney John Lavelle, who has already signed a lease with Cunningham Energy for his property in Waterloo and Lee Township, organized a meeting for landowners at the Athens County fairgrounds, where he presented a draft of a supposedly “landowner friendly” lease that landowners can use for a legal fee of $50 per acre if they wish to sell their mineral rights and use of land to  Cunningham Energy.

However, many Athens County residents are expressing concerns with the lease presented by Lavelle. The lease fails to address a number of crucial issues and holes in Ohio oil and gas regulations (see Ohio regulation and rule deficiencies). It also covers only a small amount of the conditions and clauses spelled out in the sample draft lease put forward by the Harvard Law School, known as An Ohio Landowner’s Guide to Hydraulic Fracturing. The Havard lease draft is considered a minimum standard for leasing mineral rights.

Continue reading