Residents of Ohio are losing faith in their so-called regulatory institution. An article published in Raw Story, a DC based broadcasting organization highlights the brave residents of Youngstown Ohio, who are beginning to doubt, and even completely dismiss the regulatory power of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Dr. Jeffrey Dick, Chair of the Geology Department at Youngstown State University says ODNR has already fallen behind with online listings of permitted horizontal wells, which have only been permitted in the area since 2011. According to Dr. Dick, there are now more than 85,000 vertical fracking wells in Ohio, with about 60,000 currently active. ODNR firmly asserts that their staff of 30-40 inspectors is doing an adequate job monitoring and recording these wells, as well as the new horizontal and injection wells, but residents are seeing little evidence of their vigilance.
Jaime Frederick has survived toxic waste spills from frack jobs near her home that have resulted in toxic levels of barium, strontium, toluene, and manganese in her well water, and lead, arsenic and mercury in her blood. She has repeatedly called ODNR to report visible spillage of toxic chemicals from the holding tank on her neighbors land. The calls have resulted in little, apart from winning her the title “nuisance caller” at ODNR. “There are not enough inspectors to make sure that the companies coming here are doing it properly,” she says.
The injection well responsible for the 11 earthquakes that shook Youngstown over the last year was granted a permit by ODNR even though it was located directly over a geographical fault line. “You’d have to be a fool to think it isn’t the problem,” said Dick. It took a physical barricade, public marches of hundreds of residents, and numerous rallies to force ODNR to impose a moratorium on injection at the site.
It appears that the moratorium on these Youngstown injection wells may still be in effect, but ODNR has just lifted the moratorium on all other injection wells permitted before the quakes. Along with the lifting of the moratorium came a new list of “tighter regulations” on injection wells, which ODNR claims are among the Nation’s toughest, an interesting assertion to make, considering that most of the new requirements aren’t even out in writing yet, and none of them are binding to wells already drilled.
If ODNR specializes in anything, it is enforcing Kasich’s famous words, “Ohio is Open for Business“. Kasich cut ODNR’s budget by 32 million dollars for 2012. One of the main sources of funding for the Department of Mineral Resources is now permits. In fact, ODNR received over $1 million in revenue from taxes on wastewater injection between January and September 2011 alone. This makes the ODNR’s lax regulation hardly a surprise. Apparently ODNR is open for business, and they are looking for business anywhere they can find it.
Ohio currently receives 53% of it’s toxic frack water from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and other States as distant as Texas. If Ohio’s regulations are as tight as the ODNR claims they always have been, why would it still be easiest for all these states to dispose of all that waste here in our home? And moreover, the new “tighter” regulations still rely on industry reporting, and still do not require the ODNR to track chemical or radioactive content in the brine fluid at any point in the disposal process. Similar regulatory negligence has led to massive documented radioactive contamination in Pennsylvania.
At the House Subcommittee Field Hearing, ”Natural Gas – America’s New Energy Opportunity: Creating Jobs, Energy and Community Growth” Richard Simmers, Chief, Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management at the ODNR testified, “The claims that Ohio has identified groundwater resources contaminated by hydraulic fracturing are patently false.” He claimed that inspectors from the ODNR diligently investigate drilling processes around Ohio, and that their measures are perfectly adequate. His testimony was met by laughter and muttering from Ohio residents in the audience who know better.