By Ed Runyan
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan says he supports the state’s decision to halt injection of brine wastewater into wells within a 5-mile radius of the site on Ohio Works Drive in Youngstown.
The site is suspected by some of causing 11 earthquakes, including a 4.0 quake Saturday.
But Ryan of Niles, D-17th, said he’d like the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey to work to provide the public with answers to explain why these earthquakes are happening here.
“Ultimately what we need to do is figure out what’s going on with the geology around these sites,” Ryan said Wednesday during a news conference at his Warren office. “Is there a fault line? Is there a fracture? Why are we having earthquakes here and we’re not having them at the other 177 injection wells throughout the state?”
Ryan said he doesn’t believe it makes sense to shut down all injection wells in Ohio, as some have asked.
Though Ryan notes there’s been no “direct correlation” between the Ohio Works injection well and the earthquakes, “common sense says there may be something there.”
Ryan said the U.S. Geological Survey hasn’t traditionally spent time studying earthquakes in Ohio because they haven’t existed here, but he called the USGS “the experts” on earthquakes, so it makes sense to ask it for help.
The letter from Ryan says the congressman wants to maintain a balance between public safety and the economic benefits that could come from Marcellus and Utica shale exploration. But he poses questions to ODNR regarding injection well pressure, fault lines and the rules governing injection wells.
First, he asks ODNR to explain the process by which ODNR and other agencies grant waivers to allow higher than normal levels of injection pressure, and asks whether any such waivers were requested or granted at the Ohio Works site.
Second, he asks what the state does to determine whether there are fault lines under proposed or existing injection wells.
Third, he asks when Ohio last updated its Underground Injection Control Program and whether Ohio plans to update its program and submit the updated plan to the US EPA in light of changes in drilling technology.
Saturday’s earthquake was centered close to a D&L Energy Inc. brine-injection well. The quake came one day after the state told D&L to cease operations at the well on Ohio Works Drive. The other incidents had magnitudes of 2.1 to 2.8.
The well injects brine, a byproduct of fracking, about 9,300 feet into the ground. D&L isn’t fracking at the location.
After Saturday’s quake, the state also ordered D&L to keep four inactive wells, within a 5-mile radius of the Ohio Works well, closed.
Also on Wednesday, the Network for Oil & Gas Accountability and Protection, a non-profit, public-interest organization formed in northeast Ohio in 2008, called on Gov. John Kasich to halt deep-well injection of brine and hydraulic fracturing of shales across the state.
The earthquakes raise grave concern, because hydraulic fracturing disrupts shale formations at similar depths as brine injection but with significantly higher pressures and “explosions” deep underground, NEOGAP said in a press release.
“While we are appreciative that the governor has issued a moratorium on injection wells within a 5-mile radius of the Youngstown site, this action fails to address the risks to residents in other parts of the state,” said Ron Prosek of NEOGAP.