Lawmakers in Ohio have tentatively passed new regulations governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling but they’ve immediately been criticized for being too favorable to the natural gas and oil industries.
According to a Bloomberg report, the Ohio House of Representatives and Governor John Kasich have put their support behind regulations they call among the toughest and strictest in the country but those who believe fracking drilling is dangerous to the environment and public health believe the new rules still allow drillers to keep some of the most toxic agents used in the process secret. The regulations are now awaiting State Senate approval before being passed into law.
Ohio is another state in the Mid Atlantic region dealing with a boom in fracking drilling as natural gas companies seek to capture billions of dollars in energy reserves trapped in underground shale. By using the fracking process, the rock is blasted apart using a drill, sand, fresh water, and a mix of chemicals injected into a well. Gas is released and rushed to the surface, where it should be collected and stored for processing.
Fracking drilling has created a similar dilemma for states neighboring Ohio, each looking to refine already lax federal regulations on drilling. Shoddy well construction and poorly trained well workers have led to myriad problems at active well sites and in places where chemicals and gas used in the process are stored. On top of that, there is no guarantee that fracking can be conducted safely as many environmental advocates believe the drilling, even done with properly constructed wells, can lead to contamination of groundwater supplies and underground aquifers. Fracking has also been linked with air pollution that has been blamed for causing health problems for people living closest to wells.
In Ohio, the new regulations would require drillers to disclose the chemicals and other agents used in the drilling process and in well construction. While it sounds strict, the proposed rules still allow drillers to keep “trade secrets” close to the vest, meaning they wouldn’t have to disclose some of the more toxic elements used in drilling if they’re considered as such. Companies using fracking drilling have hid behind the “trade secrets” loophole to keep some of the most toxic chemicals out of the public eye.
The proposed regulations would also require drillers to conduct water testing within 1,500 miles of wells they plan to drill and to report the chemicals they plan to use during drilling and well construction.
Ohio’s Governor Kasich believes the state is sitting on close to $5 billion in natural gas reserves and allowing a drilling boom could help the state recover from an economic downturn. In recent months however, Ohio has been the setting for numerous and persistent earthquakes that have been blamed on disposing fracking wastewater into underground wells. When the briny wastewater is sent underground, it is believed to be causing underground rock to erode and move slightly to produce the quakes. Late last year, the state temporarily halted disposing wastewater in these wells.