By Karl Henkel
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine thinks Ohio’s natural-gas and oil drilling laws are “not adequate” compared with other states.
“I think Gov. [John] Kasich has made the point very correctly that fracking can be very good for our economy,” DeWine told The Vindicator on Tuesday. “We want to encourage growth and jobs, but at the same time, we have to assure the public that the protections are in place.”
DeWine said through investigation and research, he has come to three conclusions regarding Ohio’s laws: The state is not stringent enough on penalizing violations, the attorney general’s office has no jurisdiction to help landowners who may have been swindled by landmen, and there is a need for stronger chemical disclosure regulations.
“If there is a problem later on health officials and first responders need to have an understanding what is in there,” he said. “It just makes common sense.”
Fracking is a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.
Under Ohio law, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mineral Resources Management can request specific chemical information for a Material Safety Data Sheet, used by geologists and emergency responders if an incident occurs.
That disclosure DeWine said, should be more easily accessible to residents.
The website www.fracfocus.org, a chemical disclosure registry, has MSDS forms for some Ohio wells.
Some anti-fracking advocates, however, don’t feel that publicly posting fracking chemicals is a strong enough enforcement.
“I don’t think that knowing what is going to harm us is going to be sufficient,” said Vanessa Pesec, president of the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection. “It’s rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
In the event of chemical spills or other violations, DeWine says the state falls short of proper punishments.
“Our penalties are set per violation,” he said. “Most state’s violations are set per day of violation, which makes a big, big difference.”
DeWine also said the Consumer Sales Practices Act does not does not cover those individuals selling their interests, making it difficult to protect those who feel they have been “duped” into a subpar mineral rights sale.
DeWine had investigated a notebook found by Southwest Ohio residents detailing how landmen can deceive landowners into signing leases.
He declined to comment on whether he’s discussed these proposals with legislators or Kasich’s office, but said that he can only suggest the changes.
“Ultimately, that’s up to the governor and the general assembly,” DeWine said. “I think these changes need to be made in our law for us to be adequately protect the citizens of our state.”