Formal Complaint to USEPA Filed
The Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN) has filed a legal appeal of the K&H 2 injection well permit issued last month by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Oil and Gas. The well would be the second on the property owned by K&H Partners of West Virginia, in Troy Township, Athens County, and would dispose of 168,000 gallons or more of frack waste per day. The appeal is the first of an ODNR injection well permit filed in over twenty years.
Filed on behalf of ACFAN by attorney Richard Sahli, the appeal to the Oil and Gas Commission follows formal objections by over one hundred area residents to the Oil and Gas Division during a September 2013 public comment period. The Athens County Commissioners, whose objections were among those filed, held a public meeting in November to hear public testimony after ODNR refused to hold a public hearing as requested by petitioners. The day following the Commissioners’ meeting, a 3.5 magnitude earthquake shook the county. Further objections, including another from the Commissioners, Athens City Council, and an Ohio University geologist, poured into ODNR, which has still not addressed concerns about seismicity in the region. Several requests for public documents submitted in early December have still not been answered.
The appeal raises numerous technical and legal objections about the adequacy of the well proposal to protect local groundwater, including issues revealed in inspection reports at the existing K&H well, which has been operating on the property since last spring. The K&H1 data referenced includes repeated failure of well integrity, indicating geological characteristics that do not adequately confine the wastes.
The appeal also claims that “The Chief unlawfully and unreasonably approved the permit by requiring that the protective casing extend only to an inadequate depth of 1,900 feet in the approximately 4,000 foot deep borehole, thereby insufficiently confining the waste…”
ACFAN member Nancy Pierce said of the filing, “State oil and gas laws and regulations are so badly written and enforced that the only way we can protect ourselves is by challenging them though the courts. Local officials have no power, because the state legislature has taken away all local control over oil and gas. Citizens have no power to protect themselves under an ODNR administration designed to protect the industry.”
The filing of ACFAN’s appeal was coordinated with Buckeye Forest Council’s (BFC) filing of a closely related complaint with USEPA Region 5. The BFC complaint addresses violations and safety issues raised by K&H1 inspection data. It asks USEPA to undertake an immediate review of K&H1 violations, “bring appropriate enforcement action in the federal courts against the injection well operator,” and “require ODNR to suspend the permit for the drilling of the second well” slated for the site “until such time that through credible and scientifically valid geologic characterization and seismic study have been completed.”
Teresa Mills, BFC Fracking Coordinator, stated, “We have become aware of numerous serious safety issues in construction and operation of the K&H1 well. With a second well permitted close by with clear potential for the same problems, the risk of groundwater contamination will snowball. It is up to citizens to act to protect our communities and water supply.”