Injection Well Permit Appealed, Maybe

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A local anti-fracking group announced today that it has appealed the Troy Twp. injection well permit issued last month by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. However, an ODNR spokesman says it’s not appealable.

Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN) announced it has appealed the permit issued to K&H Partners of West Virginia. The appeal was filed with the Oil and Gas Commission, according to a news release from ACFAN.

The appeal raises technical and legal objections about the adequacy of the proposed well to protect local groundwater, the news release states.

“A permit to drill is, by law, not appealable,” said ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce. He said that anyone affected by an order of the chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (who issues permits) can be appealed, but that issuance of a drilling permit is not considered under Ohio law to be an order by the chief.

“Further, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in January of 2013 that a drilling permit is not appealable to the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission,” Bruce said.

Bruce pointed out that K&H Partners still must get a “permit by order” to operate the well once it is drilled.

According to ACFAN, the appeal also includes issues it claims were revealed in inspection reports at the injection well that K&H Partners began operating last year in Troy Twp.

“The K&H1 data referenced includes repeated failure of well integrity, indicating geological characteristics that do not adequately confine the wastes,” the news release states.

Bruce said the existing K&H well has had no violations issued by ODNR since it went into operation.

The appeal also claims that “the chief unlawfully and unreasonably approved the permit by requiring that the protective casing extend only to an inadequate depth of 1,900 feet in the approximately 4,000 foot deep borehole, thereby insufficiently confining the waste…,” the news release states.

Injection wells are used to dispose of waste from oil and gas wells, including waste from the fracking of wells. Environmentalists and others are concerned because fracking waste contains hazardous substances.

James Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, has said that Ohio has the most comprehensive laws in the nation regarding Class II injection wells. ACFAN members disagree.

“State oil and gas laws and regulations are so badly written and enforced that the only way we can protect ourselves is by challenging them though the courts,” said ACFAN member Nancy Pierce. “Local officials have no power, because the state legislature has taken away all local control over oil and gas. Citizens have no power to protect themselves under an ODNR administration designed to protect the industry.”

The Athens County Commissioners and many local residents asked ODNR to hold a public hearing on the K&H Partners application before a decision was made on approval. The state did not hold a hearing, and Zehringer has said that was because no new scientific information or evidence was identified that would indicate the proposed well would be a threat to public health or safety. The commissioners held their own public meeting on the application.

According to the ACFAN news release, its appeal was coordinated with Buckeye Forest Council’s filing of a related complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The complaint also claims there have been violations and safety issues at the first K&H Partners injection well in Troy Twp., and asks that the U.S. EPA take enforcement action against the operators in federal court and suspend the permit for the second well until a seismic study is done.