A press release received today from Athens County activists:
Athens, Nov. 20, 2013 -- It was standing-room-only as over 160 people filled the Athens Community Center Tuesday night (11-19) as the Athens County Commissioners took testimony from citizens about an oil and gas waste injection well, K&H Partners #2, proposed for eastern Athens County. If approved, this permit would make the injection well complex the largest in the state.
The commissioners held the public meeting after their request, like those of over 100 Athens County residents, for a public hearing by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) was ignored. ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas has never held a Public Hearing.
Commissioner Eliason mentioned that after repeated letters to ODNR with no response, he had, in the last 24 hours, gotten two responses. Director James Zehringer wrote, “No hearing will be held on the K&H Partners permit application because no new scientific information or evidence has been identified to indicate that this proposed well is a threat to public health or safety.”
Eliason said the meeting was "important to give people an appropriate way to express their concerns. We are doing to use today’s testimony to put pressure on the legislature to mandate the requirement for public input. Injection wells should be under local control, not forced on the people.”
Dozens of people provided two hours of testimony, ranging from the high levels of radioactivity in injected oilfield waste to concerns over recent Ohio earthquakes linked to waste injection. Many speakers called for Ohio injection well permitting to be suspended until a full audit of Ohio’s Injection Well Program is done by US EPA. USEPA Region 5 has postponed its scheduled audit to evaluate testimony being received from Ohioans, according to a recipient of a recent phone call from USEPA.
Ohio University Geological Science Professor Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch said of the K&H application, “I am appalled at the total lack of science in the determination of this application as acceptable. It is like being in a third world country where the needs and health of the local citizens are blatantly ignored."
Gierlowski-Kordesch explained, "Faults are present in southeastern Ohio and can only be found through seismic surveys. Why did the Division not require a seismic survey?" She added, "Without a seismic survey, I do not see how K&H Partners can know where the waste is actually going."
She and others addressed degradation of cement and steel casings documented as inevitable in industry literature, especially under high pressure and corrosive conditions. She concluded, "There is no information here about mapping of the aquifers in the area, key information needed to protect drinking water. Where is the science?"
Greg Howard, who has worked in the HAZMAT field, bemoaned the low standards used by the American Petroleum Institute. (Ohio requires even lower standards.)"They can use pipe that hasn’t been hydro tested. The engineering just isn’t right.”
Many speakers, including David Gedeon, representing Athens Conservancy, addressed the more stringent rules that would be in place if Ohio did not have primacy, or authority, for managing the injection well program. Susan Righi, M.D., cited USEPA rules that would require complete disclosure and EPA approval of all ingredients in the injectate.
Speakers pointed to the near absence of injection wells in states without primacy, which follow USEPA regulations. Speakers blamed Ohio's lax rules and low taxes for vast quantities of waste coming into Ohio. 53% of over 14 million barrels of waste injected in Ohio in 2012 came from out-of-state.
Speakers addressed the legal responsibility of US EPA to ensure that Ohio protects drinking water. They called on USEPA to revoke Ohio's primacy based on ODNR's inability to protect drinking water as requested in aMarch 14, 2013 petitionby Teresa Mills on behalf of Ohio residents.
Attorney Anne Rubin addressed other federal laws being violated by ODNR management. She pointed out that most of the injection wells in the state are near impoverished communities: "This is one result of Ohio’s permitting process. Ohio’s poorest residents should not have their health put at risk in this manner," according to the federal environmental justice mandate issued by Bill Clinton in 1994.
Others called for passage of Ohio HB 148 and SB 178, legislation that has been introduced into the Ohio House and Senate that would ban Class 2 injection wells.
Athens County resident and former County Commissioner Roxanne Groff summed up the meeting, “This meeting is government at it best, and the underground injection program in the state of Ohio is government at its absolute worst.”
Athens County Fracking Action Network, which requested the public meeting, is part of a statewide network of concerned Ohioans sending testimony to USEPAin an effort to get USEPA to revoke Ohio's primacy over injection wells and seeking an Ohio legislative ban on Class II injection wells.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.