Liberty trustee raises concern about horizontal drilling in township
By Sarah Lehr
Trustee Jodi Stoyak has raised welfare concerns about a company planning to drill horizontally within the township.
The company also is seeking to hydraulically fracture, or “frack,” at the site, said Steve Irwin, a spokesman with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
PAC Drilling LLC, an oil and gas company based in Bolivar, Ohio, has filed for a permit from ODNR to drill about 2 miles deep on 170 acres near Warner Road.
Irwin said ODNR initially granted a permit to the company to drill horizontally in Liberty from the Clinton Sandstone formation. PAC Drilling has since submitted a new version of the permit, seeking to instead drill at an adjusted nearby location. The revised permit application is pending.
“I have grave concerns about this,” Stoyak said of drilling. “I don’t think this type of activity should be happening in a residential area where people have no other choice but to rely on well water. ... ODNR will tell you that they have all these regulations in place, but there have been situations that occur. If there’s an accident, there’s no turning back.”
Horizontal drilling is a method used to extract energy from formations, such as layers of shale rock, that run horizontally deep in the ground. The process is commonly associated with fracking.
In popular usage, fracking refers to any process, including horizontal drilling, related to the oil and gas industry. In technical usage, however, hydraulic fracking refers only to the specific technique of using pressurized liquid to break apart rocks and extract natural gas.
Both fracking and horizontal drilling have contributed to the oil and gas boom.
Mike Brudzinski, a professor of seismology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, said people might perceive horizontal drilling to be more dangerous than vertical drilling because horizontal drilling often occurs simultaneously with fracking.
He added, however, the risks of fracking itself are “relatively low.”
A 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report found that fracking activities could impact water quality under “some circumstances,” such as when spills occur or when fluid is injected into inadequately secured wells. The report cautioned, however, that, “data gaps and uncertainties limited EPA’s ability to fully assess” the frequency and severity of such impacts.
As for the potential effects of horizontal drilling on water quality, Brudzinski said, “From the studies I’ve seen, my impression is that the risks are very low.”
Water safety hinges on how effectively an oil well is sealed, Brudzinski said.
Irwin highlighted regulatory safeguards in place at drilling sites.
“ODNR’s protection of groundwater begins in the permitting process,” he said in a prepared statement. “Our permitting geologists identify underground sources of drinking water and include a protective casing program within the permit. These permit conditions are implemented in the field under the supervision of ODNR inspectors who observe the drilling, cementing and completions of oil and gas wells.”
Irwin added that fracking of the Clinton Sandstone formation has occurred “thousands” of times.
Workers with PAC Drilling were at Warner Road on Tuesday. PAC Drilling already operates several vertical wells in the area.
A request for comment from the company’s headquarters was not returned.
Meanwhile, Stoyak urged Warner residents to test their water.
“That will give them a legal leg to stand on,” she said. “If their water is ruined, there’s not much the township can do to help. They’ll need to get together for a class-action lawsuit.”