The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

April 18, 2013

Official testifies on Ohio fracking oversight

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s top oil and gas regulator went to Washington on Wednesday to advocate continued state oversight of fracking and the disposal of wastewater from drilling.

Rick Simmers, chief of the state’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources, said Ohio has proven that state oversight is superior to returning the power to the federal government. He focused his testimony before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on Ohio’s strong regulations and positive track record of enforcement of fracking and deep injection of fracking wastewater.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique to extract hard-to-reach gas and oil by pummeling rocks deep underground with high-pressure water, sand and chemicals.

Ohio, Utah and Texas were represented at the hearing.

The appearance by Simmers follows calls last month by a coalition of environmental and community groups for a federal review of Ohio’s state-run program. Simmers did not believe the invitation to appear was related to the complaint.

Groups including ProgressOhio and the Buckeye Forest Council cited recent federal indictments of a Youngstown-area businessman and his employee for alleged illegal dumping of oil and gas waste, and a series of earthquakes near Youngstown among their concerns.

Simmers said Ohio’s program imposes tougher regulations than its sister program within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and has received high marks in peer reviews joined by both outside regulators and environmental groups.

“We welcome any review of our program because we’re doing a great job,” he said. “We are both better suited and better situated to run this program than the federal EPA.”

Simmers said inspectors employed by his division, a part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, live in the communities they serve and so are able to quickly conduct inspections and respond to emergencies.

He told committee members that, as of Friday, Ohio had issued 596 permits for horizontal drilling in the Utica Shale, 293 have been drilled and 81 have been completed and are producing. Fifty field inspectors are on staff, and Ohio is ready to hire more as demand requires, he said.

“The states realize that even good regulations can be ineffective without the right amount of trained staff to properly enforce the regulations,” he said.

Simmers said in the interview that the Kasich administration has worked to improve regulations to reflect the latest technology and science in the burgeoning oil and gas industry and to crack down on environmental violators.

In announcing last month’s complaint, Teresa Mills of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, alleged the state Natural Resources Department had become “a captured agency” because it relies on the industry it regulates for income.

Activists questioned whether the agency can impartially conduct the investigation ordered by Gov. John Kasich into whether potentially lax regulations led to the dumping incident alleged by federal prosecutors.

In February, Hardrock Excavating LLC owner Ben Lupo and employee Michael Guesman were accused of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally dumping oil and gas wastes into a storm drain. The two pleaded not guilty.

Lupo also owns D&L Energy, whose deep injection well was at the epicenter of more than a dozen earthquakes in the Youngstown area, mostly in late 2011. An earthquake on the eve of 2012 prompted Gov. John Kasich to issue a temporary moratorium on new injection activity in the vicinity.

The department has pointed out that D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating both had state permits issued by Simmers’ division revoked after the Jan. 31 incident, and all pending permits were denied.

Simmers used the incident during Wednesday’s hearing as an example of the good work of his agency in cooperation with state and federal law enforcement.

“If it was not for the on-the-ground efforts of ODNR’s oil and gas inspectors, this criminal and environmentally threatening illegal activity of dumping oilfield waste directly into the Mahoning River could still be occurring,” he said. “Only with the proper resources and experienced staff could this type of action have been executed so swiftly.”

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Lower-income teens don’t get enough sleep

    African-American high school students and boys in low- to middle-income families reported short, fragmented sleep, and that could play a role in their health risks, researchers reported Monday.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • Health agencies try to counter mumps outbreak

    Health agencies trying to stem a large and growing mumps outbreak are advising college, school and even day care leaders to make sure central Ohio students are immunized and to separate them from those who haven’t been vaccinated and those who are infected.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • An ocean of broken hearts

    Lee Byung-soo says he knew, when he saw his 15-year-old son’s body in the tent. It could not have been more horrifically obvious. But he wanted so much for him to be alive.

    April 22, 2014

  • Biden conferring with Ukranian leader over what to do
    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Monday for talks with Ukraine’s embattled interim leaders as Russia’s top diplomat blamed Washington for instigating the crisis that threatens to escalate into armed conflict between the two former Soviet republics.
     

    April 22, 2014

  • Panel’s role in Cleveland police ruling questioned

    A lawyer for families of men killed in separate 2012 shootings by Cleveland police — including a 137-bullet chase under federal investigation — is questioning a grand jury’s role in a recent county prosecutor’s ruling.

    April 21, 2014

  • Gender gap under Ohio governor nearly $10 an hour

    A newspaper investigation has found the average pay gap between men and women in the offices of four of Ohio’s five elected statewide officials has grown to as much as almost $10 an hour, as it’s shrunk to under a dollar across the rest of state government.

    April 21, 2014

  • OBIT Rubin Carter Box_Lind.jpg Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76

    Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer whose wrongful murder conviction became an international symbol of racial injustice, died Sunday. He was 76.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • MAG-kramer25p-Janae-O-Neal.jpg Kramer the labradoodle soothes students, staff at middle school

    Once upon a time there was a dog that went to middle school.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ohio sees record high heroin overdose deaths

    A record number of Ohioans died from heroin-related overdoses in 2012, the state Department of Health said as it released the newest available figures for a problem that’s been called an epidemic and a public health crisis.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Ohio’s jobless rate dips to 6.1 percent in March

    Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped in March to 6.1 percent, its lowest level in six years, according to state job figures released Friday.

    April 19, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video