(Posted by Grant Maki, Law Fellow at the Ohio Environmental Council)
Today, Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and its allies submitted comments to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regarding their proposed General Permit to authorize Oil and Gas to impact wetlands and streams.
OEPA is working to establish a General Permit that lays the conditions under which an oil and natural gas drilling companies may impact streams and wetlands. If an applicant is not able to meet the terms of the General Permit, they can still apply for an Individual Permit, but the process will be much longer and require more scrutiny from EPA.
This proposed Draft General Permit would allow an applicant to “impact” (meaning “fill in”) up to half an acre of Category 1 or Category 2 wetland, and up to 300 feet of stream. The General Permit would not be available to cover impacts to the highest quality Category 3 wetlands and the highest quality streams and other water bodies. Any impacts would have to be “made up” by purchasing credits at a mitigation bank, which is an entity that will construct artificial wetlands to replace those that are impacted by new construction projects. The permit would require a company to buy credits for at least 1.5 times the number of acres of wetland that they impacted. In theory, applicants would be “making up” their impacts to our wetlands.
In spite of the mitigation ratios, the mitigation projects have been dismal failures in terms of replacing the valuable functions of wetlands.
The OEC, along with the Buckeye Forest Council , Sierra Club, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice submitted comments to OEPA regarding the Draft General Permit, urging first and foremost that EPA put greater emphasis on the avoiding and minimizing impacts to our wetlands, and to treat mitigation as a last resort. The coalition urged OEPA to:
- Prevent applicants from inadvertently impacting certain wetlands that are difficult for the untrained eye to recognize as wetlands;
- Notify local authorities – especially flood plain managers, of proposed drilling activity;
- Ensure that drillers don’t use the streams or wetland as a water source, which would probably dry them out
- Work with DNR to monitor impacts to streams and wetlands throughout the life of the drilling operation;
- Prevent multiple drilling sites in the same wetland are from cumulatively causing large impacts by limiting total impacts to each wetland to 0.5 acres.
Read OEC/BFC/Sierra Club/CHEJ Joint Comments here.