Commissioners To Ask For State Hearing On Injection Well

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A public hearing on a permit application to drill an injection well in Troy Twp. is being sought by the Athens County Commissioners, who also approved a resolution Tuesday in support of legislation that would ban disposal of fracking waste in injection wells.

Both actions were requested by the Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN), members of which met Tuesday with the county commissioners.

“Now is the time we need your leadership,” Andrea Reik, a member of the group, told the commissioners.

K&H Partners of Washington, W.Va., applied last month for a permit to drill an injection well at a site off Athens County Road 63. Last November, the company received a permit for an injection well in the same area, which has since been drilled.

Injections wells are used to dispose of brine and other waste from oil and gas wells.

Although the commissioners agreed to asked the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to hold a public hearing on the K&H application, that doesn’t mean a hearing will happen. Last year, the commissioners — as well as others — tried unsuccessfully to get the state to hold a formal public hearing on an injection well permit application from D.T. Atha Inc., which later got its permit approved for a well in Rome Twp.

Members of the Athens County Fracking Action Network asked the commissioners to hold their own public hearing if the state won’t have one.

“I won’t want to let ODNR off the hook,” Commission President Lenny Eliason said, indicating that the commissioners would consider the idea later if ODNR decides not to hold a hearing.

The commissioners voted to submit their own comments to ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, although the exact wording has yet to be worked out. The comment period on the K&H permit application ends Sept. 9, according to ACFAN.

In addition to brine, the waste from oil and gas wells can include naturally occurring toxic substances and radiation, as well as chemicals used for fracking the wells.

Reik said Ohio is becoming “a dumping ground” of fracking waste from other states.

“This waste is put into the ground and we have no idea where it is going,” said ACFAN member Katie O’Neill, who also cited a ProPublica review of well inspection records in the U.S. that she said found structural failures inside injection wells are routine.

“Ohio law continues to be inadequate to protect us,” asserted ACFAN member Heather Cantino.

The commissioners approved a resolution supporting Ohio House Bill 148 and Senate Bill 178, which contain injection well bans.

“It’s an uphill battle,” Eliason said of the effort to get such legislation passed, noting that fracking has support in some areas of the state and many people don’t distinguish between fracking (a production well drilling method) and injection wells. House Bill 148 is currently in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Eliason said that if ACFAN members want to get the legislation to move forward, they need to recruit to their cause the constituents of the committee’s chairman and vice chairman. “That’s the only way the legislation is going to move, otherwise it’s going to sit in committee,” Eliason said.