(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council, Director of Ohio Environmental Law Center)
Today, Green Groups led by Buckeye Forest Council, Ohio Environmental Council, Citizens for Health Environment and Justice, and Sierra Club submitted extensive legal and technical comments to Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for the second time in as many weeks concerning the regulation of deep shale oil and gas drilling. ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management proposed amendments to 22 of its existing rules, which have been drafted pursuant to Senate Bill 165, effective June 30, 2010 and to complete the required five-year review of these rules. The public comment period on these rules ended just less than two weeks after the Division’s well construction rules.
DNR’s proposed modifications to its rules touch on a variety of issues. With a team of technical experts, responded to the draft rule amendments with a number of suggestions to improve the proposed rules. The most glaring concern for the coalition focused on recent reports that a gaping loophole in Ohio law that allows for radioactive material to be disposed of in solid waste landfills. Many landfills across Ohio ultimately dispose of their leachate at public waste-water treatment plants . . . and then the radioactive waste may appear in the state’s waters.
Adding insult to this possible health injury, three agencies (ODNR, OEPA, and Department of Health) point to the others passing off responsibility. Above all, this is a loophole that ODNR needs to fix, now with these rules.
Specifically, the coalition urged DNR to, among other things:
- regulate radioactive waste products that result from shale drilling, including drill cuttings,
- enact a number of changes to adequately protect our water resources
- clarify the “due diligence” time period for the completion of drilling
- prohibit open-pit storage of waste and flowback products, except for the limited purpose of spill prevention
- adopt more rigorous protections related to the surface application of brine water
These are just the latest of many more rule packages to come. However, there are nearly 100 deep shale fracking wells permitted under old, and thus less protective, rules. Further, with the previous ODNR Well Construction Rules, OEPA’s Air permit (and upcoming wetland impact permit), and ODNR rule packages set for early 2012 drafts which include spill prevention and pipelines, it is becoming clearer that even ODNR believes that the rules they permitted are not as protective as they should be.
Read OEC, BFC, CHEJ, and Sierra Club’s joint comments — and have a wonderful Holiday.