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Environmental groups want to shift oversight of Ohio injection wells

WARREN — Environmental groups urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take over regulation of oil and gas injection wells in Ohio have filed a petition seeking the change with the federal regulatory agency.

On Thursday, they tried to raise awareness of their effort that would revoke the state department’s primacy over Class II injection wells.

“Everyone has the right to clean air, clean water and a safe place to live and work. Ohio shouldn’t be selling those rights cheap to the oil and gas industry who are lying to its residents about the dangers,” Silverio Caggiano said. He is a retired Youngstown Fire Department battalion chief and HazMat specialist.

Caggiano was among several people who spoke in support of the petition, filed Tuesday by the Buckeye Environmental Network, Sierra Club, Earthjustice and 30 community organizations.

A news release after the conference call stated the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has failed to meet basic requirements under the U.S. Safe Water Drinking Act designed to protect underground sources of drinking water and to perform its environmental justice obligations under U.S. laws and executive orders for Class II disposal wells in the state.

Also, they say the wells are located disproportionately in low-income Appalachian communities and contain dangerous toxins and substances.

Rob Brundrett, Ohio Oil and Gas Association president responded, saying the U.S. EPA should reject the petition, “as it represents nothing more than federal government overreach into a program that has proven to be safe and effective.

“In 2015, the U.S. EPA under President Barack Obama performed an independent audit at the request of activists, which found that ‘Ohio runs a good quality program for Class II wells.’ Since then, the program has only gotten stronger and is more stringent than current federal requirements. Therefore, this petition is an ill-advised and unfounded attempt to give greater authority to a distant federal bureaucracy, rather than leave it in the hands of regulators who best understand our state,” he said.

The U.S. EPA gave regulation primacy of Class II disposal wells to ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management in 1983, according to ODNR.

“The federal agency has consistently reaffirmed that Ohio operates an effective regulatory program that meets federal standards and protects public health, safety and the environment. The division takes our responsibility to protect Ohio’s groundwater, surface water and environment seriously, as demonstrated by our rigorous permitting process, regular inspections and enforcement,” ODNR spokeswoman Stephanie O’Grady wrote in an email.

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