Dear Editor –
I would like to clarify to the public what the ODNR spokesman who spoke to the Athens News (Dec. 2, 2013, page 23) was saying about the issue of so-called “seismic features” that they consider when permitting an injection well. The array of “data” that was considered by ODNR does NOT include any from the rock layers around the proposed injection well itself. They have identified active faults in the area (i.e. southeastern Ohio in general), but not any inactive faults near the well that could be activated with the injection of large quantities of liquid waste (as happened in the Youngstown area). There is no conclusive proof that our most recent earthquake was “natural”; there are no seismic or hydrologic data concerning the flow of the injected saltwater from the nearby Hocking College wells toward the earthquake epicenter. A true “seismic” study would involve mapping of inactive faults as well as aquifers in the subsurface around ANY proposed injection well. This would entail good science that should be done to protect the health of Ohio citizens. ODNR failed to protect our citizens with the permitting of the Youngstown wells without requiring the needed seismic data. Please do not have this happen again here in Athens County.
Elizabeth Gierlowski, PhD
The Plains, OH
ACFAN NOTE: The Athens News, in printing the “correction” referenced here, omitted another vital error in ODNR information provided recently to the News: The map of area injection wells provided by ODNR and purporting to include abandoned and plugged wells, which appeared on the front page of the Athens News last month, OMITS the abandoned well a mile from the Nov. 20 Athens quake epicenter, although this well was described in an e-mail from ODNR as follows:
Note the following information on the lack of accurate reporting prevalent with small earthquakes in the U.S. noted by William L. Ellsworth in his review, Injection-Induced Earthquakes, in the peer-reviewed journal, SCIENCE 12 JULY 2013 VOL 341:
“…seismic monitoring capabilities in many of the areas in which wastewater injection activities have increased are not capable of detecting small earthquake activity that may presage larger seismic events.
“… smaller [than 3.0M] earthquakes are not routinely reported in the central and eastern United States. So it is possible that smaller earthquakes could be more common in the vicinity of these wells…
Athens County Commissioners request seismic study before ODNR proceeds any further with K&H2 permit process
Athens County Commissioners sent a letter to ODNR on Wed., Nov. 27, requesting a moratorium on the K&H2 injection well permitting process. The letter calls for a complete seismic study and review of the area. It states that the Nov. 20 3.5M Athens County earthquake, “felt in Little Hocking near the K&H site raises substantive concerns relevant to health, safety, and environmental conservation.” Among these concerns, the letter states, are the peer-reviewed science documenting associations between injection and quakes and “the incompleteness of the data on the Athens 2013 quake [that] point to the lack of seismic data for the region,” according to USGS. The letter states that the study should include determining “whether citing an injection well in an active earthquake zone is proper.”
Athens City Council also voted unanimously Monday evening (12-2-13) to oppose permitting of the K&H2 injection well based on health and safety concerns, especially given recent seismic activity in the area and the inability of concrete to guarantee well integrity in an earthquake.
A report from Perry County indicates that the Sherrif’s office entrance, damaged in the Nov. 20 Athens County quake, is now a danger to people entering the building.
From USGS on the Athens Nov. 20, 2013 quake:
|Depth||7.9 km||± 7.8 km|
Note from USGS technical info page on depth:
Whether or not last week’s quake was caused by injection, siting a 5500-barrel a day (231,000 gallons) injection well facility in a seismically active region is a relevant and substantive concern that must be addressed based on new information. What is the integrity of this well to withstand future quakes? What other unmapped faults are there and what fissures created by recent Washington County and Athens County quakes that might allow migration of waste to drinking water supplies? Because there is no aquifer mapping of the area (as would be required if we were subject to USEPA permitting requirements), our concerns are greatly magnified by the recent quake.
It is certainly plausible that injection of 2.1 million gallons of oilfield waste a mile from the epicenter through a now abandoned injection well in the field by the movie theater (and the Hocking River) combined with the many tons of mountain removal at the southern end of the new bypass greatly lifted pressure on underlying layers and allowed lubricant from the injection materials to lubricate faults.
ODNR’s “responses” to over 100 public objections on the K&H2 injection well application do not address many relevant and substantive concerns. ODNR did not answer many objections. Some responses are outright untruths; others are extremely misleading. For ODNR to move forward with permitting would be irresponsible and in flagrant violation of its legal responsibility to protect drinking water as well in violation of the clear intent of Ohio law to address ANY relevant and substantive objections in a public hearing.
For example, “The U.S. EPA excludes certain wastes from the definition of hazardous because of their lower toxicity” (#16) is patently false. According to US EPA, “We all should recognize…that some Class II fluids are ten times nastier than some Class I injectates…There are many solvents, for example, that would be classified as hazardous and the wells injecting them as Class I if they were not used in conjunction with oil and gas production.” Class 2 wells are exempt due to Halliburton and other legislation, not due to actual toxicity. These exemptions do not relieve the state of its drinking water nonendangerment obligations.
“How does ODNR ensure that casing and tubing will withstand degradation by the injection fluid?” (#13) is not answered. The response does not state that materials won’t fail. It simply says what ODNR is supposed to do when they do fail. ODNR checks injection pressure every 11-12 weeks at best, time for a lot of fluid migration. How do they determine a leakage is “minor” or protect our water when this leakage occurs?
ODNR response #14 states, “The longevity of a well will depend upon the operator’s commitment to fluid treatment and regular well maintenance.” Given known well failures documented in industry and academic reports, this response does not assure confidence or the state’s mandated protection of our drinking water “until the end of time!”
#15 does not answer the question of total lack of water monitoring. It states that there can be leakage but claims it is contained within outer steel and cement casing, known to fail. The response also states that contamination would have to be discovered by area residents. The K&H2 application provided no data on whether or how geologists determined depths of drinking water supplies, thickness and nature of confining strata, and porosity. Public concern is therefore NOT addressed, especially given recent seismic activity and NO seismic study. What is the shearing potential of this well, for example, in an earthquake?
“How can a maximum [pressure] also be an average?” (#3) does not answer the question, understandably difficult since a maximum cannot also be an average (unless there is NEVER variance in injection pressure). Didn’t we learn about averages in about fourth grade? Answer #4 states that an average can be zero, which would also require there never be any pressure needed to inject 4000 barrels a day through a 2 2/3” tube to a rock layer 4000’ deep. Implausible to say the least. These are therefore still relevant and substantive concerns.
ODNR misleads in its comparisons to USEPA requirements. Key is that ODNR never approves of contents or even has a record of exact contents. “Ohio calculates the maximum allowable injection pressure in a more conservative and protective manner” misrepresents the facts. Unlike USEPA, which requires all contents to be reported to determine maximum pressure, ODNR uses a formula based in the specific gravity of production fluid from the Clinton formation, a shallow oil and gas layer. This does not account in any way for actual specific gravity of flowback from much deeper layers accessed and chemicals used in fracking. #11 also misleads since ODNR only uses an actual specific gravity when an operator requests a change in maximum pressure.
ODNR has NOT shown that ALL public objections are irrelevant and without substance or assured the public of its ability and commitment to carry out its federal and state-mandated responsibility to protect drinking water.
3.5M quake in Athens County, fifteen hours after injection well meeting. The earth saying, “Time for direct action”?
A 3.5M earthquake shook Athens, Nelsonville, and surrounding areas yesterday, frightening many in their shaking homes and many aware of the clear implications for our drinking water. Our land is becoming riddled with holes into which massive quantities of toxic, radioactive frack waste are being dumped. And we now know that this is happening in a seismically active area as well as one pockmarked with abandoned wells and mines and flowing with acid mine drainage, which speeds wells’ inevitable pipe and cement corrosion and degradation. How safe do you feel with ODNR at the wheel?
The quake was possibly the largest ever originating in Athens County (there was possibly one similar in size in 1886. Records are contradictory.) It is less than a mile from an abandoned injection well along the Hocking River that received over 2 million gallons of oil and gas field waste before being “plugged” a decade ago.
ACFAN issued the following press statement following the quake:
ACFAN considers the Athens County 3.5M earthquake (11-20-13, epicenter near Doanville, 2 mi. SE of Nelsonville) an alarming occurrence given imminent approval by ODNR of an Athens County injection well that will dump 168,000 gallons a day (63,000,000 gallons/year) of toxic radioactive frack waste below our community. Approval would make the K&H site the largest facility in the state. The 3.5 quake makes it the largest ever with an epicenter in Athens County.
Athens County Commissioners hold standing-room-only public injection well meeting
Athens, Nov. 20, 2013 — It was standing-room-only as over 160 people filled the Athens Community Center Tuesday night as the Athens County Commissioners took testimony from citizens about an oil and gas waste injection well, K&H Partners #2, proposed for eastern Athens County. If approved, this permit would make the injection well complex the largest in the state.
The commissioners held the public meeting after their request, like those of over 100 Athens County residents, for a public hearing by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) was ignored. ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas has never held a Public Hearing.
Commissioner Eliason mentioned that after repeated letters to ODNR with no response, he had, in the last 24 hours, gotten two responses. Director James Zehringer wrote, “No hearing will be held on the K&H Partners permit application because no new scientific information or evidence has been identified to indicate that this proposed well is a threat to public health or safety.”
Eliason said the meeting was “important to give people an appropriate way to express their concerns. We are doing to use today’s testimony to put pressure on the legislature to mandate the requirement for public input. Injection wells should be under local control, not forced on the people.”
Dozens of people provided two hours of testimony, ranging from the high levels of radioactivity in injected oilfield waste to concerns over recent Ohio earthquakes linked to waste injection. Many speakers called for Ohio injection well permitting to be suspended until a full audit of Ohio’s Injection Well Program is done by US EPA. USEPA Region 5 has postponed its scheduled audit to evaluate testimony being received from Ohioans, according to a recipient of a recent phone call from USEPA.
Ohio University Geological Science Professor Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch said of the K&H application, “I am appalled at the total lack of science in the determination of this application as acceptable. It is like being in a third world country where the needs and health of the local citizens are blatantly ignored.” Gierlowski-Kordesch explained, ”Faults are present in southeastern Ohio and can only be found through seismic surveys. Why did the Division not require a seismic survey?” She added, “Without a seismic survey, I do not see how K&H Partners can know where the waste is actually going.”
She and others addressed degradation of cement and steel casings documented as inevitable in industry literature, especially under high pressure and corrosive conditions. She concluded, “There is no information here about mapping of the aquifers in the area, key information needed to protect drinking water. Where is the science?” Greg Howard, who has worked in the HAZMAT field, bemoaned the low standards used by the American Petroleum Institute. (Ohio requires even lower standards.) ”They can use pipe that hasn’t been hydro tested. The engineering just isn’t right.”
Many speakers, including David Gedeon, representing Athens Conservancy, addressed the more stringent rules that would be in place if Ohio did not have primacy, or authority, for managing the injection well program. Susan Righi, M.D., cited USEPA rules that would require complete disclosure and EPA approval of all ingredients in the injectate. Speakers pointed to the near absence of injection wells in states without primacy, which follow USEPA regulations. Speakers blamed Ohio’s lax rules and low taxes for vast quantities of waste coming into Ohio. 53% of over 14 million barrels of waste injected in Ohio in 2012 came from out-of-state.
Speakers addressed the legal responsibility of US EPA to ensure that Ohio protects drinking water. They called on USEPA to revoke Ohio’s primacy based on ODNR’s inability to protect drinking water as requested in a March 14, 2013 petition by Teresa Mills on behalf of Ohio residents.
Attorney Anne Rubin addressed other federal laws being violated by ODNR management. She pointed out that most of the injection wells in the state are near impoverished communities: “This is one result of Ohio’s permitting process. Ohio’s poorest residents should not have their health put at risk in this manner,” according to the federal environmental justice mandate issued by Bill Clinton in 1994.
Others called for passage of Ohio HB 148 and SB 178, legislation that has been introduced into the Ohio House and Senate that would ban Class 2 injection wells.
Athens County resident and former County Commissioner Roxanne Groff summed up the meeting, “This meeting is government at it best, and the underground injection program in the state of Ohio is government at its absolute worst.”
Athens County Fracking Action Network, which requested the public meeting, is part of a statewide network of concerned Ohioans sending testimony to USEPA in an effort to get USEPA to revoke Ohio’s primacy over injection wells and seeking an Ohio legislative ban on Class II injection wells. Visit ACFAN’s injection well page for more citizen testimony.
 Ohio Revised Code says that if the Chief of ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas considers any objection raised during the public comment period to be relevant and substantive, a hearing is be called within thirty days of receipt of the objection (ORC 1501:9-3-06). The deadline for comments was mid-September. No one had heard from the Chief of ODNR as of Monday.
Veteran forced Into fracking lease one day after Veterans’ Day
Columbus, Ohio, 11-12-13—Jim Huebner, Massillon resident and Vietnam Veteran, appeared in front of the Technical Advisory Council on Tuesday to express his objection to being forced into leasing his land to Everflow for oil and gas drilling, or mandatory pooled, as part of the Sisko 1 unit.
The six present council members, Mark Neese, John Ackerman, Steven Grose, Douglas Gonzalez, Brian Morley and Greg New all voted in favor to mandatory pool Jim and fourteen other people. All present members work directly with or have interest in oil and gas drilling operations.
During Huebner’s testimony, he expressed concerns about the proliferation of urban wells in the area, the aquifers that may be adversely impacted and preserving the neighborhood’s historical integrity.
Everflow’s leasing manager, Les Dundics state that all but about 5% of the properties in the proposed well location had signed leases. Chairman, Douglas Gonzalez implied he wanted to ensure the other 95% of the signers are able to “enjoy theirs” (mineral rights). He said, “better off being mandatory pooled and getting something for their minerals instead of nothing.”
Huebner rebutted to Gonzalez’s assertion that this was in everyone’s best interest. According to Jim, residents were told by land agents that they were better off signing because, if they didn’t sign, the company would take the land and they wouldn’t see anything. In an economically depressed area, Huebner argued that residents would be more apt to sign to get “something,” especially if they are led to believe they’re going to get big royalty payments. People are thus coerced into signing instead of entering a contract based on free will asserted Huebner. Furthermore, he informed the panel that there were a number of rental properties in the area, so some of the landlords signing don’t actually live on the grounds.
Les Dundics, representing Everflow, said that the company would not encourage or permit their agents to tell landowners they would take their land and that he would take appropriate action with his leasing agent. The company had a prior incidence in the area with a forged signature on a lease agreement and that leasing agent had since been removed.
At the end of Huebner’s testimony, he reminded the council that he was a veteran and retired park ranger very familiar with his rights. He asserted to the council that he believes a mandatory pooling is unconstitutional and a violation of his freedom to form or decline a contract. He said, “…this proceeding before a largely biased and pro-oil and gas panel, which reports to a biased and interested governor who has been paid so much by oil and gas companies, is an unconstitutional infringement on my civil rights. I may seek civil rights damages against the members of this panel individually and as agents of the state as this goes forward.” Huebner is upset that his land can be taken by a private entity without a condemnation proceeding.
Moving forward, the council will express their approval to the Chief. The Chief will review the information and issue an order or deny it. Huebner may file an appeal should the Chief move forward with an order.
Update: Commissioners set public meeting for Tuesday, Nov. 19, 7-9 p.m. at the Athens Community Center, E. State St., Athens in order to allow the public to voice its concerns about the K&H2 permit application, the Ginsburg well, and ODNR management of the injection well program.
From the Commissioners: “The Athens County Board of Commissioners will be holding a public meeting on the injection well application for a new well permit in Athens County for K & H Partners. This meeting will take place on November 19, 2013 at the Athens Community Center on East State St. from 7 until 9 p.m.
Those wishing to speak are asked to keep their comments brief so that everyone will have an opportunity to talk. Written comments will also be accepted.
Representatives from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, K & H Partners and the media have been invited to attend. If you have questions, please contact the Athens County Board of Commissioners at 740-592-3219.”
ACFAN encourages people to:
- Please bring written comments, which can be longer than the brief comments you may wish to present orally.
- Check out acfan.org injection well page for talking points: Injection Wells 101 and Ohio Primacy: Why USEPA must revoke Ohio’s authority over oil and gas waste disposal in injection wells.
- Feel free to address broader problems with ODNR regulation of injection wells in order to alert USEPA to its responsibility to revoke Ohio’s primacy (authority) over the injection well program. See acfan.org for arguments.
- Please thank the Commissioners for responding to our request that they hold this meeting. This meeting can help us make USEPA aware of our community’s great concerns about ODNR negligence and ODNR refusal to grant a public hearing or listen to our concerns. Thank you!
Coverage in Athens Messenger, Tuesday, Oct. 29, by Steve Robb, Messenger staff journalist:
A public meeting will be held by the Athens County Commissioners so that people can express their views on a pending injection well permit application.
The meeting was requested Tuesday by the Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN), although a date has not yet been set. In July, K&H Partners of West Virginia applied for a permit to install an injection well off Athens County Road 63, which runs between Coolville and Torch. It already has one injection well in that area.
The county commissioners had previously written the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to request that ODNR hold a public hearing on K&H Partners’ pending permit application. Attached to that request was a list of more than two dozen concerns Athens County residents have raised about the K&H Partners application and injection wells in general.
Andrea Reik, a member of ACFAN, told the commissioners that ODNR received more than 100 comments about the pending permit application during a comment period that expired Sept. 9. She said that so far ODNR has not said whether it will hold the public hearing requested by the commissioners and others.
Mark Bruce, spokesman for ODNR, said Tuesday that the agency “continues to diligently review” the comments and objections that were received about the K&H Partners permit application.
“… The chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management will determine if the objections are relevant,” Bruce said.
A hearing by ODNR is required if the chief considers an objection to be relevant to issues of public health or safety or good conservation practices, or to have substance, according to the Ohio Administrative Code.
Absent word from ODNR on a public hearing, Reik and other members of ACFAN asked the commissioners to hold a public meeting to allow people to raise their concerns.
“I think that it is important that people have a forum where people can express their concerns,” Commission President Lenny Eliason said regarding why he supported having a public meeting.
Representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ODNR, the county’s congressional delegation, the well operators and the public will be invited to the meeting, according to the commissioners.
Members of ACFAN said they want the United States EPA to take back injection well oversight in Ohio, which the EPA gave to the state in 1983. According to ACFAN, the U.S EPA has more stringent permitting standards.
The public meeting hosted by the commissioners also will be an opportunity for people to comment on the Ginsberg injection well, located on Ladd Ridge Road.
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