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Veto Requests for Biennial Budget Bill

Ohio Environmental Council, June 28, 2013

To Governor Kasich, submitted by Jack Shaner, Deputy Director, Ohio Environmental Council.

The Ohio Environmental Council respectfully asks you to veto the following provisions of the Conference Committee report on House Bill 59.

1. TENORM

DNRCD31 Disposal of Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material and Other Material from Horizontal Wells

We respect that your Administration has recognized the need to safely dispose of radioactive materials generated by horizontal drilling for oil and natural gas. We strongly disagree, however, with your Administration’s proposed characterization of and proposal for disposal of this waste. 

The provision differentiates between NORM and TENORM such that the majority of wastes associated with shale gas production — especially drill cuttings — will be defined as NORM. This effectively will exempt much of the potentially radioactive materials from effective sampling and testing for the established regulatory threshold of radioactivity.

The United States EPA, National Academy of Sciences, and American National Standards Institute all recognize drill cuttings as TENORM. A related concern is our understanding that the ODNR plans to allow the “downblending” of wastes with soil or other materials in an attempt to dilute the radioactivity. Bottom line, Ohio is poised to adopt a weak standard for the disposal of radioactive materials in landfills that are not engineered to safely contain such waste.

This is a substantial change in public policy. Yet is has received little inquiry, evaluation, and comment by scientists and independent experts outside of the state’s agencies and the oil and gas industry.  We believe that, at a minimum, the provision should be debated in a separate, stand-alone piece of legislation. The provision is not in the public interest; as such, it should be vetoed.

2. Brine Discharge Amnesty

ORC Sec. 1509.227 within DNRCD30 Brine Disposal Requirements

We respectfully request that you veto a provision that was added by the Conference Committee to allow a person to store, recycle, treat, process, or dispose of brine or other waste substances associated with oil and gas drilling without an order or a permit issued by ODNR, merely because they have begun operation before January 1, 2014. 

Proposed ORC Section 1509.227 provides a free pass to facilities to skirt the ODNR permitting process, including those facilities that may have been discharging brine and other drilling waste fluids in violation of current law.  While the current permitting process for brine disposal is woefully inadequate, there is at least a cursory attempt at public notice of permitting, and at least a documented approval based on criteria in law, rule, or policy.

This provision allows for the Chief to simply approve a disposal method without the need to document the reasoning behind such approval, consult with in-house or external scientific and technical experts, or notify local governments or local residents. For more than 30 years the approved disposal method for oil and gas drilling wastewater has been underground injection. 

While we believe that additional laws and regulations are necessary to protect water quality and human safety near these disposal wells, for the past 30 years the state has chosen injection over discharge of brine and drilling waste into our waters because such discharge can damage the environment and human health. 

Such a diversion from the concepts of transparency and thoughtful review by agency experts is not in the public interest; as such, proposed new ORC Sec. 1509.227 should be vetoed.

3. Tread and Mow On Me Amendment

LOCCD27 Beautification of Reservoir Property by Contiguous Property Owners

This provision would authorize private citizens to trespass, alter, and usurp public property and utilize it as their own private property. This provision poses negative implications for water and wildlife resources, drinking water treatment, and water rate payers:

  • Publicly-owned buffer areas and their natural/native vegetation play an important and necessary role in reducing flooding, soil erosion, and pollution from entering Ohio’s water bodies. Natural/native vegetation in these buffer areas provide these benefits to the state; mowed grass and vegetation, just like hard, impervious surfaces, simply do not. 
  • Enactment of these provisions will result in declines to water quality, including public drinking water supplies.
  • This is not only detrimental to Ohio’s environment but to all citizens who rely on public water supplies. As water quality declines, water treatment costs rise. The result is that rate payers will see higher bills. In Columbus, alone, this will impact more than 1.1 million ratepayers.
  • Furthermore, many local governments and non-governmental organizations have followed Ohio EPA recommendations, and invested millions of dollars into these buffer areas in order to improve water quality. If enacted, these provisions will wash away these dollars and many of the resulting improvements. One such example is Clover Groff Run. The city of Columbus has invested approximately $3 million to restore a portion of this stream, which feeds into the Big Darby Creek, a treasured, high-quality waterway.

The amendment may benefit a relative few, but at the expense of millions of citizens and the public’s natural resources. This provision is not in the public interest; as such, it should be vetoed.

Thank you for considering our perspective.