By Marc Kovac
A Democratic state lawmaker has proposed a moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing until a new federal study on the impact of the growing oil and gas drilling method is completed.
Sen. Michael Skindell, from the Cleveland area, also wants increased regulations on the practice, known commonly as “fracking” and touted by supporters for the potential economic boon it could bring to Ohio.
Skindell introduced two bills this week on the issue. One would call for a temporary halt to horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the state until after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finishes a study on the potential impact to drinking water.
That study is expected to be completed in a year or two.
The other bill would establish additional requirements for hydraulic fracturing activities and the disposal of brine and wastewater that result from the process.
“We believe that a moratorium on this process until we get a report from the EPA is responsible,” Skindell said. “In addition, we believe that the minor regulations [in the proposed legislation] is a responsible measure.”
Neither bill is expected to get much traction in the GOP- controlled state Legislature. Similar amendments were offered and defeated during legislative debates earlier this year.
Republicans and Gov. John Kasich have voiced support for high- volume horizontal fracturing, an emerging method of extracting oil and gas by pumping large volumes of water and chemicals into underground shale formations.
Proponents believe fracking will increase energy production in the state, add funds to the state coffers and promote job creation and economic growth in drilling-related industries. They also say that hydraulic fracturing has been in use in the state and country for decades and is safe thanks to existing regulations.
But opponents want a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until adequate safeguards are in place to protect the environment.
“This does not say no forever to deep-shale gas development,” said Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council, which supports Skindell’s legislation. “But it does say slow down, let’s take our time, let’s get the best available science and let’s get the most protective safeguards and regulations in place to guide the sensible, thoughtful, responsible development of this significant resource.”