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How does the state really keep track of fracking waste? Is it actually recycled?



Published: Fri, March 1, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

How does the state really keep track of fracking waste? Is it actually recycled?

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management is charged with regulating the disposal of brine and other wastes produced from the drilling, stimulation and production of oil and natural gas. Oil-field brine is a saline byproduct generated during oil- and gas-well operations.

According to ODNR’s website, about 98 percent of all brine is “safely disposed of by injection back into brine-bearing or depleted oil and gas formations,” known as Class II injection wells, which the agency also regulates.

The other 2 percent is spread on Ohio roads for dust and ice control.

Operators that inject waste generated inside the state pay 5 cents per barrel to ODNR, while operators that inject waste generated outside the state pay 20 cents per barrel.

Brine haulers must have an identification number issued by the division, and the name and telephone number of the hauler on the sides or rear of their trucks.

Ohio oil-field brine haulers must maintain a daily log in their trucks that tracks where the brine originated and where it is disposed of, otherwise known as ODNR’s “cradle-to-grave” policy.

“Currently, all brine-certified haulers must have an approved plan that indicates where they are taking oil-field waste,” said ODNR spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle. “A modified plan must be submitted and approved if a company wishes to add a new destination.”

The waste is rarely recycled in Ohio. Patriot Water Treatment of Warren, the only facility that engages in treating fracking waste in Ohio, contends that its processes are state of the art, with thorough testing and treatment of the fluid before it goes to another facility for the same process. But ODNR has proposed legislation in the governor’s budget bill that outlines the prohibition against disposing of treated oil-field waste into Ohio’s groundwater, lakes and streams.

Efforts also are under way to design “safer fracking fluids” that either reduce the amount of hazardous chemicals or replace them with nontoxic compounds.

Now that Youngstown’s voters will get a chance to vote on a fracking ban in the city, I wonder if other cities and towns in Ohio have had success with similar efforts? I also heard that bans can’t be enforced. Is this true?

The residents responsible for landing a proposed charter amendment on the May 7 primary ballot to ban fracking in Youngstown are not alone.

Considering Ohio’s shale play is relatively new and still in its exploratory phase, efforts to ban fracking within city limits also are new, but not isolated.

However, such bans will be difficult to enforce because Ohio Revised Code 1509.02 gives the Ohio Department of Natural Resources “the sole and exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations within the state.”

Nonetheless, Mansfield passed a charter amendment outlawing injection wells there. Broadview Heights, near Cleveland, and Pittsburgh also have similar bans in effect.

Athens is considering similar measures. Kent’s city council is mulling the prohibition of gas drilling on public land, and Brunswick City council will vote on a resolution that would formally state its opposition to state laws that give ODNR the sole right to regulate drilling.

The efforts could pose problems for operators that are forced to engage in litigation with local governments forced to comply with their city or town’s charter amendments, ordinances or resolutions.

The effect could have a chill on economic activity in some parts of the state if companies become reluctant to establish operations where such bans are approved.

Questions about shale development or the fracking

process can be sent to news@shalesheet.com.


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