Youngstown councilwoman pulls injection-well ban proposal

By David Skolnick

By David Skolnick


City Councilwoman Janet Tarpley withdrew an ordinance to ban injection wells in the city because the unenforceable proposal didn’t “get enough support.”

But Tarpley, D-6th, said Wednesday that she’s going to make some changes to the legislation and could have it in front of council by its next meeting, Dec. 19.

“There were concerns it couldn’t be enforced the way it’s drafted,” she said.

The state, and not the city, controls the permitting of wells used to dispose of brine wastewater, a byproduct of fracking, which is a process of drilling into shale to extract natural gas and oil thousands of feet below ground.

Mayor Charles Sammarone said that after hearing about Tarpley’s proposal from a Vindicator reporter, he told the councilwoman he wouldn’t sign the ordinance, if it passed, because it’s unenforceable.

“I took an oath to uphold the state constitution and its laws,” he said. “This goes against state law, and I wouldn’t sign something that contradicts it.”

Tarpley’s withdrawn proposal called for a ban on all new and existing well sites used to dispose of brine wastewater.

A new proposal, she said, would encourage companies to use “new technology to clean the brine water besides just having the injection wells.”

Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, said she’d support the proposal if it includes language urging companies to use other options to clean brine water.

Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, said he would not have voted Wednesday in favor of Tarpley’s ordinance because “I have questions about enforcing it. The way the legislation is proposed wouldn’t do anything to remove the state’s power to regulate.”

City officials have expressed concerns about brine-injection wells for more than a year.

Injection wells are a disposal method for brine, a salty, chemical byproduct of natural-gas and oil drilling.

A 4.0-magnitude earthquake occurred Dec. 31, 2011, with the epicenter near an injection well off of Ohio Works Drive in Youngstown.

It was the most serious of a series of 13 earthquakes recorded in the city near that well.

After the earthquake, the state shut down that injection well and suspended indefinitely any other potential injection wells within a seven-mile radius from operating.

There are four other proposed injection wells in that radius.

The state has “no plans to lift that [suspension] unless we find scientific evidence that gives us a different picture” about that well being the cause of the earthquakes, Heidi Hetzel-Evans, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said late last week.

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