Tagged In: Air Pollution, Appalachia Ohio, Clean Water, Environmental Health, Fracking, Land Use, Law Center, Member, Mining & Drilling, Natural Resources, OEC Policy, Parks & Forests, Water Pollution
Ohio Environmental Council, September 9, 2013
Contending that Ohioans are not adequately protected from the risks of horizontal, hydrological fracturing – or “fracking” -for oil and gas, the Ohio Environmental Council today proposed a sweeping upgrade to state oil and gas laws.
The eco group’s proposal, dubbed the SAFER GAS Act (Safeguarding Appalachian Families with Environmental Regulation of Gas And Shale) calls for:
“The oil and gas industry is poised to cash in the claims it’s staked in eastern Ohio,” said OEC staff attorney Trent Dougherty.
“Meanwhile, Ohio law continues to leave its citizens, landowners, and air and water vulnerable to government inattention, industry exploitation, and environmental contamination. The law should protect the wellbeing of ordinary citizens, first, and the oil and gas industry and its investors, second.”
The OEC points to multiple gaps in Ohio law that need shored up to balance the interests of the public and property owners, including existing state laws and regulations that:
To implement and enforce existing laws, as well as the SAFER GAS Act, the OEC is calling for a 5 percent tax rate in the state severance tax on oil and gas, with 100% of revenue dedicated to increased inspection and enforcement, capping old orphan wells, and addressing local impacts.
“New laws, of course, will do little to help if they are not vigorously enforced. Both the Ohio DNR and EPA will need to step up their efforts to protect Ohio from the excesses of this industry,” said Dougherty.
To make its point, the OEC points to a comprehensive review of oil and gas industry enforcement by six states, including Ohio.
Conducted by the environmental group Earthworks, the review found that each state failed to adequately enforce existing regulations.
The 2012 report is based on a detailed review of each state’s laws and recent enforcement activity, as supplied by each state’s regulatory agency. The report found:
“To its credit, the Kasich administration is hiring more oil and gas inspectors. It’s doubled ODNR’s oil and gas regulatory budget. But much more needs to be done to shore up our laws and regulations,” said Dougherty.
The OEC released its proposal a day before the one-year anniversary of law changes that Ohio Gov. John Kasich championed and lawmakers passed last year (SB 315) take effect. Like Gov. Ted Strickland before him, Gov. Kasich secured the law changes in the wake of impacts from a high profile incident.
The Strickland reforms came after methane from a faulty production well caused a house to explode and fouled more than 20 neighborhood wells in Geauga County in 2007.
Kasich’s changes to the law followed a series of small earthquakes that shook the Youngstown area in 2012, linked by regulators and scientists to a nearby high-pressure oil and gas waste disposal well that had been improperly installed.
State regulators have yet to propose any rule changes to implement the 2012 law changes.
While industry cheerleaders gush about a possible shale gas boom in Ohio, the number of wells drilled here is small relative to larger producing states. The industry has drilled more than 500 horizontal wells in Ohio; in neighboring Pennsylvania, the number exceeds 7,000.
In an unusual move, the OEC released the proposal even before it has asked a lawmaker to introduce it. The eco group is inviting comment and suggestions from the public and landowners, as well as lawmakers and regulators – even the oil and gas industry.
“Everyone has a stake in the adequate and responsible oversight of this intensive industry. We invite all persons of good will to help us improve and pass this proposal into law,” concluded Dougherty.
The SAFER GAS Act shores up more than 30 gaps in Ohio law:
1. Environmental Protection
2. Enforcement & Transparency
3. Industry & Government Accountability
4. Property Owner Protection
The complete draft language is available at here.
The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio’s leading advocate for fresh air, clean water, and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism, and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles, and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio’s families and communities. For more information, visit www.theOEC.org.