Athens County Commissioners and Statehouse Reps Request Public Hearing on Mega-injection Well Permit Application
by Athens County Fracking Action Network
Athens, OH Sept. 14, 2013 –– Athens County Commissioners, State Representative Debbie Phillips, and State Senator Lou Gentile were among more than one hundred letter writers requesting a public hearing on a new Athens County injection well permit application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The Commissioners’ letter states, in part, “It appears to us that this is a seriously deficient application that will not prevent pollution of land, surface water and drinking water sources as required by Ohio Administrative Code 1501:9-3-04.”
The letter cites Ohio Administrative Code requiring a public hearing: “The Board of Commissioners feels that there are substantive and relevant concerns regarding the public health, safety, and environmental conservation. These concerns merit a public hearing because Ohio law requires that the Chief grant a public hearing if ANY comments are substantive and relevant to health, safety, or good conservation practices. (OAC 1501:9-3-06 (H)(2) (c)).” [emphasis in original] The letter goes on to cite concerns raised by Athens County Fracking Action Network in their entirety. These and the Commissioners’ and other letters are posted at acfan.org.
The K&H2 application requests a permit for an injection well that could inject up to 4000 barrels (168,000 gallons) a day of waste. The maximum daily limit would make this well the largest in Ohio and more than triple the amount of waste potentially injected into the rural SE Ohio area around Torch, where K&H1 can now receive 1500 barrels a day. The newly permitted Atha well on nearby State Rt. 144 has also been observed receiving many truckloads a day.
The Commissioners and other letter cite the following deficiencies among many:
- “The application states, ‘K&H #1 Unloading and Containment Facility will be used for the #2 well.’ There is no schematic or description of this facility, built for K&H Partners #1 well. How does this existing facility get evaluated by the public? How does the public know the facility’s capacity for containment and mitigation?
- How can a maximum psi also be an average as stated in the public notice?
- How can the average psi be zero as listed on this application? This is a serious and substantive concern with this application that will affect public health, safety, and environmental conservation, given that the permit application allows up to 4000 barrels a day of injectate, or 60,000,000 gallons a year, more than 10% of the total amount injected into over 170 Ohio Class II wells in 2012. Together with the allowable volumes in the nearby K&H1, the volumes permitted into the land near Torch and the Ohio River come to more than 83 million gallons a year, more than 125 Olympic size swimming pools worth of fluids ANNUALLY AND WITH NO LIMIT EVER, YEAR AFTER YEAR. This application does not and cannot support the Division’s legal mandate to require that this operation will not pollute groundwater or surface water or area drinking water supplies. (OAC 1501:9-3-04; 40 CFR 144.12)”
Letter writers also question “the unrealistically low maximum psi, given the high volumes that can be injected daily into non-porous shale through a 2 3/8″ tube.” They fear that “the psi will likely be increased after the permit is granted as occurred in Youngstown, where levels of 2500 psi were eventually allowed and earthquakes occurred.”
Recent peer-reviewed science on association of the Youngstown earthquakes with injection well pressure and volume is cited, and the timing of seismic activity addressed:
“The 5.1 quake in Oklahoma linked to injection wells occurred years after initial injection, and in Colorado, ‘the largest earthquake (Mw 5.2) occurred on 10 April 1967 more than a year after injection ceased on February 1966 [Healy et al., 1968].’”
(Kim 2013: 3515)
Since seismic activity can happen long after pressures are reduced, letter writers state that “reducing pressure at that point may be too late to prevent future quakes.” The letters go on to request, “Given that nearby Washington County has experienced recent earthquakes associated with increased deep well activity and that Youngstown, which had never experienced quakes, had close to 100 earthquakes associated with injection wells (Kim 2013), please provide to the public, in a manner in which the public can respond before a permit is issued, evidence used to determine that seismic testing was not necessary for this well and the peer-reviewed science on which this determination was made.” No seismic survey or explanation of its absence accompanies the application.
Letter writers cite federal law and question Ohio’s primacy, or authority, to regulate its own injection well program: “Ohio is required to protect drinking water sources per 40 CFR 144.12. Primacy is based on being able to fulfill this requirement. If Ohio did not have primacy over its UIC – underground injection well control program – and a USEPA permit were required, K&H Partners would be subject to USEPA Region 5 Commercial Class II well permit requirements because K&H Partners will be injecting waste that it does not produce. (epa.gov/r5water/uic/forms/commercial.htm)
This USEPA Commercial Class II permit would mandate, among other requirements:
- Restrictions on injected fluids, approval of new sources…
- Restriction of fluids injected to a list approved by USEPA for injection into the commercial well and contained in the permit [Part III(D)];…
- Submission of quarterly analyses of samples taken from the location identified in the permit [Part II(B)(3)] for the normal brine constituents: sodium, calcium, total iron, magnesium, barium, sulfate, chloride, bicarbonate, carbonate, sulfide, total dissolved solids, pH, resistivity, and specific gravity,…”
Ohio does not require any of these USEPA reporting activities or restrictions.
USEPA is scheduled to conduct an audit of Ohio’s injection well control program within the next month.
Kim, W.-Y. (2013), Induced seismicity associated with fluid injection into a deep well in Youngstown, Ohio, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 118, 3506–3518, doi:10.1002/jgrb.50247 <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jgrb.50247/abstract>