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Environmental groups petition federal government to revoke Ohio’s authority over injection wells

Kitchen sink drinking water
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Drinking water

A collection of environmental advocates and local government officials argues that Ohio’s regulation on injection wells falls short of protecting safe drinking water and that the U.S. EPA should revoke the state’s authority.

The petition alleges that Ohio’s Class II injection well program violates requirements established under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Class II injection wells are used to dispose and store brine and other fluids associated with oil and gas production.

The filing with the U.S. EPA said Ohio has failed to carry out an effective enforcement program that meets the federal standard.

The petitioners include the Buckeye Environmental Network, the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, and a list of other front-line organizations with local ties to communities that may be impacted by injection wells.

They said Ohio’s permitting process lacks regulatory requirements to prevent endangering drinking water, and that the program disproportionately “burdens” low-income Appalachian communities.

The groups said nearly all of Ohio’s Class II wells are located in Ohio’s Appalachian region.

James Yskamp, senior attorney for Earthjustice, said Ohio’s permitting process for injection does not go far enough in requiring protections for the environment, such as providing a full description of the waste that’s being injected.

“Until EPA requires Ohio to correct the deficiencies identified in the petition, Ohio will continue to manage its Class II program in a manner that endangers underground sources of drinking water, disproportionately impacts low-income Appalachian Ohioans, and deprives those most impacted by Class II disposal wells of the opportunity to participate in major decisions,” said Yskamp.

The petitioners said a stricter regulatory framework would help protect drinking water and could reduce the potential for seismic activity.

Stephanie O’Grady, media and outreach specialist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, noted that the U.S. EPA delegated primacy of the regulation of Class II disposal wells to ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management in 1983

“The federal agency has consistently reaffirmed that Ohio operates an effective regulatory program that meets federal standards and protects public health, safety, and the environment. The division takes our responsibility to protect Ohio’s groundwater, surface water, and environment seriously, as demonstrated by our rigorous permitting process, regular inspections, and enforcement,” O’Grady said.

The Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, a non-profit group for public education on Ohio’s oil and natural gas industry, said the state has proved to be a “responsible, environmental steward” in several ways including in its regulation of Class II wells.

“Over the years the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has increased their supervision, superseding the requirements of the federal government. This petition only serves to spread misinformation on the oil and natural gas industry and gives more power to the federal government,” said George Brown, executive director of OOGEEP.

Brown added that the country is in an energy crisis and that the focus should be on increasing “clean, affordable energy, not increasing red tape.”

Contact Andy at achow@statehousenews.org.