David Miller, February 22, 2018
Powhatan, OH — On February 15, operators lost control of a horizontal well causing a fire and explosions in Belmont County along the Ohio River. The well blow out and resulting methane and air pollution occurred on an XTO well pad on Cat’s Run off of State Route 148. Residents were evacuated for one mile surrounding the well pad. The incident occurred as operators were working to put an idle, formerly drilled and fracked well, back into service.
This week, days after the initial leak, residents living over a half mile away from the well pad were just returning to their homes. Residents with homes less than a half mile from the well pad are still under an evacuation order.
The initial pollution report from the US EPA cited the release of not only methane from the uncontrolled well but also brine, produced water and “unknown condensate components.” The release was estimated at 100 million cubic feet of gas per day. There were other hazardous chemicals on site as well including methanol, ethylene glycol, petroleum distillates and others. In addition there were chemical constituents cited in safety data sheets as “trade secrets” that could be hazardous substances without our knowledge.
“What this incident demonstrates is that Ohio’s current setback laws for horizontal oil and gas wells are clearly insufficient and do very little to protect communities from this new wave of oil and gas development,” said Melanie Houston, Director of Climate Programs at the Ohio Environmental Council. “Current Ohio law requires a horizontal oil and gas well to be located a mere 100 feet from a home in a rural setting. Given the frequency of horizontal well pad incidents in Ohio over the past five years, it is past time for Ohio lawmakers to reconsider a safer setback distance. State lawmakers also must close the chemical reporting loophole in Ohio law to make sure that first responders such as those responding to last week’s incident can get the full accounting of chemical identities during oil and gas emergencies”
“This is yet another wake up call that stronger protections are needed for communities from the risks of oil and gas well pads,” said Houston. “As the federal government rolls back protections from methane pollution, it is critical that state-level action is taken to protect Ohioans from these potential dangers.”