State says Weathersfield injection well could reopen after it devises a ‘comprehensive plan’


By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WEATHERSFIELD

The state says in a new court filing the injection well it closed on state Route 169 just north of Niles could reopen if the Howland-based company that owns it would devise a comprehensive plan.

The filing tells the Ohio Supreme Court that it should refuse to hear the appeal American Water Management Services requested recently because the case is “routine” and does not present any issues of statewide interest.

The filing says the Weathersfield Township well’s operations were “likely responsible for two [2014] earthquakes of increasing severity in an urban area populated by schools, residences, businesses and a fire department.”

It says the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas “believed the continued operation of AWMS’s injection wells could result in higher-magnitude earthquakes, so the division suspended the operation of both wells.”

The closings led to appeals to a state commission, a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge, then the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus, which affirmed the state’s position.

The Franklin County judge, who supported AWMS’s position, proposed a restart plan that did not include “risk minimization procedures,” the filing notes.

On the day of the well’s first earthquake in July 2014, the company had started injecting about 2,000 barrels per day, then increased it to 5,500 barrels.

“But then two earthquakes shook the ground near AWMS No. 2 in July and August,” the filing says.” Both were too small to be felt by humans, earlier documents have said. Another 20 smaller “seismic events” also took place near the wells, the filing adds.

Injection wells are a means of disposing of wastewater from drilling operations for gas and oil.

The ODNR had earlier argued that AWMS should not resume operations until the state developed a policy for what to do about injection-well-induced earthquakes, but it will consider a comprehensive plan from AWMS that would allow the company to restart the deeper of its two wells – well No. 2.

AWMS, owned by Avalon Holdings of Howland, submitted a plan, but it “lacked a risk assessment and other scientific and quantitative support to show that it would minimize risks,” the filing says.

The state no longer plans to develop statewide guidelines regarding injection wells, instead deciding to use a “case by case approach,” the filing says.

“AWMS may at any time propose a comprehensive plan for safely restarting AWMS No. 2,” the filing says.

AWMS’s request for the Ohio Supreme Court to review the 10th District Court of Appeals’ decision should be rejected because AWMS’s arguments “are restatements of well-settled law, neither of which requires clarification from this court,” it says.

But it adds that even if the 10th District did make an error in its ruling, the Supreme Court need not review this case because “nothing prevents AWMS from proposing a comprehensive plan for safely restarting AWMS No. 2,” or to resume pending legal action it filed in the Warren-based 11th District Court of Appeals.

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