Send your letter to to email@example.com 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:
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.
2. Property Value. Fracking companies no longer need to provide an independent appraisal or the county auditor’s assessment of all real estate above the twenty-thousand dollar value. Under these rules, it will be up to landowners to obtain costly appraisals. This is an undue cost-shifting onto the landowners and makes it harder for individuals to claim damages to their property value during and after fracking.
3. Safety Distances. Tanks, fire heaters, and mechanical separators no longer need to be set at a defined safety distance to wells, roads, and inhabited buildings. Given the industry’s record of explosions and fires, this change would be extremely detrimental. Removing the minimal distance is also a complete relinquishment of the very idea of reasonable regulatory action.
Correction (Dec. 21, 2011): The claims made in “Safety Distances” are wrong. Though technically indeed removed from OAC, this reappears in a somewhat strengthened form in ORC 1509. 021. We regret this error, which was caused by enemy #1 of good journalism, time pressure.
4 3. Time Limits. Most existing limitations (usually 12 months) on permit expiration, operation commencement, and well plugging are lifted or extended, particularly in rural areas. This may result in a reality where people’s health and quality of life are less protected in non-urban areas than in urban ones. Are people in rural areas less important than those in urban areas?
It is appalling that ODNR is relaxing, rather than improving the regulations on fracking.
Unlike old-style small vertical gas drilling, fracking has serious risks that necessitate strict regulation and enhanced regulatory oversight.
Known risks include soil, drinking water, and air pollution from methane and fracking chemicals, as well as community disruption and damage to public health, quality of life, and local infrastructure. Long term risks include a serious increase in greenhouse gases due to escaped methane, as well as contamination risks due to geological changes and degradation of well casings and well plugs.
The recent EPA study on groundwater contamination in Pavillion, WY, clearly established a link between fracking fluids and highly toxic chemicals in the groundwater. Reports on fracking-related air, water, and soil contamination are coming from all over the country.
As a regulatory body charged with protecting the interest of the public, ODNR should balance both sides and not just single-handedly promote the interest of an industry that is already exempt from the most relevant federal environmental laws.
If you’ do not agree with the proposed changes, send your comments by Dec. 23 to the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. Please feel free to use the above language to formulate your comments. You may also use and modify a longer draft letter that specifically addresses the changes in detail, which you can download as a Word Document from this site.
Send your letter via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to this address:
Mineral Resources Management
2045 Morse Rd.
Columbus, OH 43229-6693