The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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February 12, 2014

ODNR still studying Conneaut injection well permit

CONNEAUT — An application to dig an injection well within Conneaut city limits is still being reviewed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, a spokesman said.

“There are no new developments,” Mark Bruce said in an email message. “Our review process continues.”

Bruce is referring to an injection well that could do business on property a short distance east of Route 7 between Underridge and South Ridge roads. The applicant is American Energy Inc., of Cortland, which is seeking state approval to dig a 6,500-foot well on the site, into which could be pumped upwards of 1,000 gallons of salt brine and other by-products of oil and natural gas drilling each day of operation. The liquid would be pumped into porous rock.

American Energy formally applied for the permit in early December. Robert Barnett, company president, said the site was picked for its proximity to the Pennsylvania state line, Interstate 90 and wells in the area. Residents and government leaders are opposed to the proposed well, citing environmental concerns. Neighbors are concerned that their water supplies could be contaminated. So-called “produced water” is the primary by-product of drilling, but that water can also contain material injected into the well can also include substances used in the drilling process as well as hydrocarbons.

American Energy operates dozens of wells in northeast Ohio and some in Pennsylvania, Barnett said. Three of those operations have been found deficient by the ODNR, the state’s regulatory agency in recent years. In 2011, a well in Trumbull County was found in violation because it lacked proper on-site identification information and was not in production. That well is back in operation and deemed in compliance with state law, Bruce said.

In 2012, a Conneaut well lacked fencing and locks required of operations in an “urban” setting, Bruce said. The problem has been corrected, he said.

Still outstanding, however, are problems detected in August at an injection well American Energy operates in Pierpont Township, according to the ODNR. State inspectors detected a temporary storage tank leaking brine that had killed surrounding grass. Also, the well lacked an automatic shut-off valve, Bruce said. The state ordered American Energy to remove the tank and clean up contaminated soil, he said.

The company complied with those orders, but still needs to repair a containment dike and also submit a plan for secondary containment, Bruce said. American Energy has not responded to messages left seeking comment.

American Energy’s violations are not unusual, Bruce said.

“These are not out of the norm,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, these were minor violations.”

Past performance can carry weight when applications are considered, Bruce said.

“History is something that can be looked at, especially certain violations at a certain level,” he said. “A lot depends on the severity of the violation.”

So far, the state is not considering a public hearing on the application. A hearing will be scheduled if ODNR receives a comment or objection that is relevant to the health or safety of the public, Bruce said.

“There has to be substantial, relevant information put forward,” he said.

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