(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council, Director of Ohio Environmental Law Center)
Earlier this week, a coalition of statewide, national, and regional environmental organizations and local community groups from around Ohio, submitted substantial comments in response to Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) proposed regulations of oil and gas well construction.
The coalition was led by Natural Resources Defense Council, along with Sierra Club and Ohio Environmental Council, and includes Earthjustice, Buckeye Forest Council, Concerned Citizens of Portage County, CHEJ, Green Environmental Coalition, Guernsey County Citizens Support on Drilling Issues, Progress Ohio, Fracking Interest Group, Carroll Concerned Citizens, Inc., Concerned Citizens Ohio, Environment Ohio, Network for Oil & Gas Accountability & Protection, and the concerned citizens of Ohio they represent.
These rules were drafted pursuant to Senate Bill 165, effective June 30, 2010 [O.R.C 1509.17], the state’s first major overhaul of the oil and gas drilling law since its original drafting in the 1960’s. Senate Bill 165 was initiated mainly on the heels of the 2007 explosion that resulted in property damage and lengthy water impacts in Bainbridge Township, Geauga County. The Bainbridge incident was to a degree the result of defective or improper well casing, an issue the current rules are meant to solve. [Read ODNR’s analysis of the Bainbridge incident] However, with the onslaught of deep shale, Utica and Marcellus, drilling in Ohio, the importance of these rules has intensified.
While the coalition provided a number of technical comments, the general crux of the message was BE AT LEAST AS PROTECTIVE AS OTHER SHALE DRILLING STATES. The proposed rules fall short of that quite reasonable request. While the coalition certainly does not want to blindly follow the lead of Pennsylvania, it is important to learn from those mistakes. The following line sums up much of the 22-page comments:
The draft rules require substantial revision as the standards proposed are less protective than other states that are experienced in deep shale gas drilling and are considerably behind the state of the art.
For more, read the joint comments as well as the Expert Report of Susan L. Harvey of Harvey Consulting, LLC filed by the coalition.
Also, late last month, OEC filed an initial set of regulatory comments on the proposed regulations — drafted by a team of 7 technical experts from around the state. OEC’s technical comments we accompanied with the group’s suggested areas of ODNR focus for further development of rules and procedures to properly regulate deep shale drilling — including those suggested by the US Department of Energy.
ODNR suggests that the rules will be finalized in early 2012, and a number of other regulatory revisions (namely those concerning pipelines, spill prevention, and spacing requirements) will be proposed next year. Stay tuned.
Read The Columbus Dispatch story on the environmental community reaction to the proposed rules.