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State Shale Roundup by Marc Kovac

State Roundup

Monday, April 1, 2013

An update on lawmaker action and other activities at the Ohio Statehouse related to horizontal hydraulic fracturing:

Not on the roads: An analysis released by the state’s legislative service commission outlined several law and policy changes proposed by Gov. John Kasich in his biennial budget, including language that would ban brine from horizontal hydraulic fracturing activities to be spread on roads for dust or ice control.

Local governments could still allow road applications of brine from conventional vertical wells, as allowed under legislation passed more than a dozen years ago.

Other provisions in Kasich’s budget include increased production reports from horizontal well owners, increased notifications of lease transfers and an impact fee paid in advance by drillers, who would recoup the costs over time.

Busted: The owner of a Youngstown company charged with illegally dumping tens of thousands of gallons of oil-field waste into the Mahoning River was indicted on federal charges — news that drew support from state Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, a Democrat and frequent critic of the fracking industry.

“The fact that Mr. [Ben] Lupo was able to continue operating after repeated environmental violations is beyond puzzling — it’s downright terrifying,” Hagan, D-58th, said. “Quite frankly, this incident raises serious questions regarding the cozy relationship the oil and gas industry in Ohio shares with the state agencies that are responsible for overseeing the expanding drilling operations in our state.”

Hagan introduced the “Lupo Bill,” which would increase penalties for improper dumping of fracking waste.

Public information: An environmental group filed a complaint with federal regulators over a state law that blocks public access to details of chemicals used in fracking.

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice alleges state officials are violating federal law by allowing horizontal hydraulic fracturing without full disclosure in advance to emergency responders and certain state agencies.

Protest: In March, protesters gathered at the Statehouse to lobby lawmakers to support tougher fracking regulations, including a “return of local municipal control over oil and gas activities, passage of emergency medical right-to-know legislation and a ban on injection wells used for fracking waste.”

More local support: The Ohio Farmers Union testified before an Ohio House committee asking that the proceeds from a proposed increase in the state’s oil and gas taxes go to support local communities rather than an income tax cut.

“We believe these funds should be earmarked for public education and infrastructure improvements such as roads and bridges in shale counties, which will receive potentially unprecedented industrial traffic due to drilling operations,” Roger Wise, the group’s president, said in a released statement. “We are opposed to using 100 percent of revenues for the purpose of reducing income taxes statewide.”

Another EPA complaint: Environmental groups asked the U.S. EPA to investigate the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and shut down the state’s injection-well program after a Youngstown business owner was indicted on charges of illegally dumping oil-field waste.

The Buckeye Forest Council, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and like-minded groups played host to press conferences around the state, voicing concern that other drilling companies have continued operations despite repeat environmental violations.