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Injection Well Ban: Is Ohio a "Watchdog or Lapdog"?

PHOTO: A new bill would halt the disposal of toxic fracking waste into injection wells in Ohio. Photo Credit: Donna Carver
PHOTO: A new bill would halt the disposal of toxic fracking waste into injection wells in Ohio. Photo Credit: Donna Carver
May 30, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new bill in the state Legislature would halt the disposal of toxic fracking waste into injection wells in Ohio.

The legislation, House Bill 148, proposed by Reps. Denise Driehaus, D-Cincinnati, and Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, would ban the use of Class II fracking injection wells. Waste from hydraulic fracturing is toxic and full of unknown chemicals, Hagan said, adding that it is largely unregulated.

"The biggest issue is (to) become a watchdog, not a lapdog to the industry," Hagan said. "I'm not against fracking per se, but I'm certainly concerned about the injection wells and what that may hold for us in 10, 15 years."

Injection wells need to be banned until a more environmentally friendly way to dispose of fracking waste can be found, Hagan said.

A similar bill has been introduced in the Ohio Senate by Sen. Mike Skindell, D-Lakewood.

The Oil and Gas Association has expressed concerns the ban would essentially shut down the oil and gas industry in the region. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, an estimated 14 million barrels of brine and liquid waste were accepted into the state's 178 active injection wells in 2012.

Donna Carver, who lives in Morrow County, said she and other activists are not against progress or development but want to ensure the public's health is first and foremost. She said fracking waste should not be going into Class II injection wells.

"As far as the old oil field waste that's being injected, the record of well casings failure is enough to say that this is not an effective way of getting rid of this waste," she said. "This is an industry that earns billions and billions of dollars in profits. They can find another way to deal with their waste product."

Driehaus said Ohio's leaders have an obligation to keep citizens safe, and as the fracking boom continues, more oversight is needed.

"We don't have enough resources to monitor the injection wells to the level at which they're popping up in Ohio," she said, "and so I have a concern that if there were to be some kind of problem or leakage, we as a state would not be equipped to deal with that."

An estimated 40 community and environmental groups have officially backed the proposed ban.

The text of HB 148 is online at legislature.state.oh.us.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH