Groups Say Ohio Needs to Strengthen Rules for Oil and Gas Waste

click to enlarge Oil and gas companies dispose of liquid waste in injection wells. - (eleonimages/Adobe Stock)
(eleonimages/Adobe Stock)
Oil and gas companies dispose of liquid waste in injection wells.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Groups say new draft rules proposed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) do not go far enough to properly regulate oil and gas waste facilities, or injection wells, used to dispose of liquid waste.

A hearing is set for Dec. 6.

Megan Hunter, senior attorney for Earthjustice, said the rules lack transparency, and fall short of what is necessary to protect human health and the environment, because of loopholes and how much discretion they give to the agency to waive requirements.

She argued neither waste facilities nor injection wells are required to be set far enough back from surface water.

"They can be located within 100 feet of surface waters, within a developed drinking-water well, for example, and the same is true for the injection wells," Hunter outlined. "And that's just not a great enough distance to be protective of surface and groundwater."

Hunter noted Ohio receives liquid oil and gas waste from Pennsylvania and West Virginia in addition to its own products. She contended one of the biggest problems with many injection wells is they do not require the waste to be properly characterized, meaning first responders who may be dealing with a leak or a spill might not know what kinds of chemicals or radioactivity they could be facing.

Silverio Caggiano, retired battalion chief for the Youngstown Fire Department, said if his team gets a call about a leak, it can be dangerous if they don't know what they could be exposed to. He pointed to what are known as "right-to-know" laws, where companies are required to offer information about what chemicals are used and stored in their facilities.

"On a fire-department and first-responder level, the reason why those Right to Know laws are placed in there was so I can prepare for something," Caggiano explained. "If XYZ company is going to put something in there, and they're going to be using this chemical, I have to figure out if I have the ability to detect it and mitigate it."

Groups emphasized the new rules require less oversight than current regulations. They urged the ODNR to hold the oil and gas industry accountable by requiring regular reporting and transparency.
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