Small Town vs. Big Drilling

injection 1

We have so much work to do to further understand how current (and past) policies effect day to day life. What are these local issues, and how do larger policies effect these? One hyper-local issue in Coshocton County is injection wells.

I spent a few days in Coshocton in early August. Here, no one was talking about the Russian investigation, which was dominating national news at the time. Rather, they were talking about the threat of a local injection well permit (change from Class II to Class I) on the horizon and the fear of catastrophic water pollution.

This is the perception that I gathered:

Basically, it seems like the community is being taken advantage of by the EPA “who answers to no one” (I was told.) They have forum meetings with the local ‘leaders’ (county commissioners?) who have been told that the residents basically have no choice in the matter.

I’m not sure how many injection wells are already in the county, but here are some stats for the one I know of: (Disclaimer: these may not be totally accurate, but this is what people were saying)

Class II Well on Airport Road (near Walmart, off US-36)

  • 100 trucks/day deliver brine here
  • Every truck carries 45,000 gallons of brine
  • Deliveries happen 7 days of the week
  • Some skepticism about it ‘only’ being brine, as testing only consists of measuring pH 1x/week
  • 7000 wells (for drinking water) are located in a 2-mile radius of this injection well
  • The sheer volume of brine being injected is worrying people b/c of risk of a fissure and reported quakes in other areas (not in Coshocton)
  • Person leasing land for this well is paid $25K/mo ($300K/yr) for this land use

If the Class I injection well permit is issued, there will be different (non-hazardous) material, not just saline, injected. While non-haz mat doesn’t seem threatening, people are very worried.

I heard of a case of benzonite clay (from fracking) showing up in a drinking water well, so it seems very conceivable that these materials could show up in drinking water as well. (This person used to work on an offshore oil rig, so he seemed to be very knowledgeable about drilling, benzonite clay, & risks involved).

Obviously, people have a serious case for concern. This was largely the perception in August, and as of now, the permit has not yet been issued. Several meetings and a rally have been held. The EPA held a hearing in Coshocton in October where over 30 residents voiced concerns in 4-minute increments. It appears that the EPA was accepting comments through November 26, so we should hear soon if the permit will be granted.

I’m far from understanding the larger issues at play here. I did write to Congressman Gibbs and received an extremely pro-industry letter about job creation. (There have only been a handful of jobs created with these wells, and a very limited halo to local businesses.) Does he really believe that this is the case? Are the sixteen (+/-) jobs enough to justify the environmental risk? Or would he rather not be bothered by issues in this under-served community? I tend to believe the latter. It would be interesting, and most likely very telling, to follow the money on this one. What I have been impressed by is the level of activism in Coshocton. I am anxiously awaiting the outcome to see if the public opposition really matters at all here.

Coverage of Oct 18 EPA Hearing:

http://www.coshoctonbeacontoday.com/community-members-voice-strong-opinions-at-ohio-epa-public-hearing/?fbclid=IwAR11R03VArkfN1sZvwuMNTTpz49BwKPYt4ZxKlmc02u9FJbgJCNbtj1TN4Q

Ohio EPA Info:

https://www.epa.ohio.gov/ddagw/uic#114075321-how-does-ohio-epa-know-what-is-being-injected

Pro-Drilling Perspective:

https://marcellusdrilling.com/2018/11/ohio-epa-considers-converting-class-ii-injection-wells-to-class-i/

My letter from Congressman Gibbs’ office (August 10, 2018):

Dear Mrs. Carrion,

Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about fracking in Ohio. Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, has been used for years, but has become a topic of debate since the discovery of domestic shale formations. As your Representative in Congress, I appreciate the opportunity to hear your opinions on this issue.  

As you may know, the discovery of the Utica and Marcellus shale formations has allowed us to tap into massive underground oil and gas reserves. With the advent of horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), Ohio is ideally situated to become a major source of domestic energy for years to come. 

While the energy industry has been investing in Ohio and creating jobs, concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of fracking. It is important to remember fracking is not new – in fact, it has been occurring across the country for over 60 years. Over one million wells have been drilled, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates natural gas production from fracking produces two-thirds of U.S. gas production. Horizontal drilling is new, and when combined with fracking, allows shale plays like the Utica and Marcellus to be technologically achievable and economically viable.  

While I am a strong proponent of developing our nation’s natural resources, I believe this work must be conducted responsibly with proper regulation. While I was a member of the Ohio Senate, I worked on S.B. 165, the first significant overhaul of Ohio’s oil and gas law in twenty-five years. S.B.165 made a number of improvements, including new well construction standards, a requirement that non-producing or abandoned wells be plugged, stronger enforcement of regulations, additional inspectors on the ground, and notification requirements for malfunctioning wells. These improvements, along with many others, provided Ohio with what many consider to be one of the strongest oil and gas laws in the nation. 

Currently, there are two methods for disposing of fracking wastewater: 1) injection into underground storage wells; or 2) using treatment plants to dispose of the wastewater. To date, no evidence has suggested the use of underground storage wells, as is done in Ohio, has resulted in drinking water contamination.    

Individual states have the authority to regulate fracking, and I believe Ohio has taken steps to ensure when fracking is done, it is done right. Furthermore, the oil and gas industry has tremendous incentive to guard against an environmental disaster. Energy companies are taking unprecedented steps to ensure safety and environmental protection, including installing triple cement casing to wells.  

The development of our natural resources brings jobs and economic growth to Northeast Ohio. Since fracking is regulated on the state level, I would also encourage you to express your concerns to your state representative and senator. You can find their contact information by visiting www.OhioHouse.gov and www.OhioSenate.gov. I hope this letter explained my position on energy development and fracking. Please keep me informed on the issues important to you by contacting my Washington, D.C. office at (202)-225-6265 or by visiting my website at Gibbs.House.gov.        

Sincerely,

Bob Gibbs 
Member of Congress

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