By David Skolnick
The company that operated a shut-down brine-injection well sharply criticized state Rep. Robert F. Hagan and Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone for statements they made to The Vindicator about a study the company will fund near and around the well.
In a statement Thursday to the newspaper, D&L Energy Group said it was “disappointed with the cynical comments” made by the two.
D&L is paying for an independent entity to conduct a geology examination in and around the injection well on Ohio Works Drive.
Results would be reviewed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which would determine whether the well could resume operations.
Eleven earthquakes were centered close to the well in the past 10 months.
Sammarone said people would be more comfortable with an independent study rather than one that could be perceived as being influenced by D&L.
“This is not only unfair, it is unseemly behavior for public officials charged with enforcing responsible public policy,” D&L wrote in the prepared statement.
Hagan said D&L is “the one being unseemly. They’re the ones causing negative feelings in our community. I’m shocked they’d even comment on this. They’re so culpable that you can smell the stink they’re injecting all the way to Columbus.”
Last Friday, D&L agreed to an ODNR request to cease operations at that well.
After the Saturday earthquake, the largest of the 11 with a magnitude 4.0, the state imposed a moratorium ordering D&L to keep four inactive wells, within a five-mile radius of the Ohio Works well, closed indefinitely.
Hagan, Sammarone and city council’s public utilities committee will have a public meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Covelli Centre community room to talk about the injection well and earthquakes. Officials from ODNR, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Geological Survey, the federal EPA and U.S. Geological Survey are invited to attend.
The company wrote in Thursday’s statement that the study possibly could exceed $1 million.
“Someone must pay the costs,” the company wrote. “D&L is willing to do so and is attacked for being responsible.”
Sammarone said he was surprised about the potential expense.
“That’s a lot of money to do a study,” Sammarone said. “I’m in the wrong business. I should do studies of wells and make $1 million.”
Sammarone stood by his earlier comments to The Vindicator that “the perception is always better if you have an independent study” done rather than have the company handpick who will conduct it.
“Based on my experience, the public prefers independent studies,” Sammarone said. “It’s up to the state to decide. If they have no problem with it, then I have no problem with it.”
Hagan was more blunt in saying he wouldn’t trust the results of a study “bought and paid for by D&L.”
The company said Hagan and Sammarone are “contributing to an unproductive atmosphere of speculation and negativity.”
In Thursday’s statement, D&L wrote: “To attack a solution without offering a legitimate alternative would indicate these officials are acting against the company in a personal fashion. They seem less concerned with finding answers about why our area has experienced earthquakes, and would rather see D&L shut down as a sacrifice to political expediency.”
Andy Ware, an ODNR spokesman, told the newspaper Wednesday that the agency doesn’t “believe for certain there is a direct causation” between the well and the earthquakes.
“But, at this point, there has to be a pretty high bar of information provided to move forward with allowing injections at those sites,” Ware said.
D&L and ODNR officials met privately Wednesday and agreed the company would conduct the study. ODNR would examine the study, but “it’s going to have to meet a high standard for our review,” Ware said.
The Ohio Works well injects brine, a byproduct of fracking, about 9,300 feet into the ground. D&L isn’t fracking at the location.
Fracking is a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet underground to extract natural gas and oil. Injection wells are the opposite — it uses the fluid left over from fracking and injects it deep into the ground for disposal.