JEFFERSON — A state bill that would have introduced a host of regulations to the fracking industry is dead for 2016, and lawmakers will have to go back to the drawing board in 2017.
The Ashtabula County League of Women Voters met Tuesday to discuss the state of the hydraulic fracturing industry in the county. The league invited Vanessa Pesec, head of the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection, to speak.
During the session, State Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, confirmed a bill designed to balance the economic boons and environmental concerns that come with fracking won't go any further in this General Assembly, with only five session days left after the Nov. 8 election.
Patterson introduced House Bill 422 last year alongside fellow Democrats 63rd District Rep. Sean O'Brien and 64th District Rep. Mike O'Brien. Since then it's had only one hearing, he said.
Some of the proposals the bill aimed to address included setbacks and access to deeds, as well as requiring the state notify local entities of new proposed wells and prohibiting wells in 100-year flood plains.
Patterson urged league members at Tuesday's meeting to review the bill on their own — it's viewable online at www.legislature.ohio.gov — and "see what holes are in it" before it's reintroduced during the next General Assembly in January.
"We just have to keep working at it," Patterson said. "We have to educate and advocate to different groups so we can work together. This involves all of us."
About 1.3 million barrels of toxic fracking wastewater, or brine — that's more than 56 million gallons — were dumped in Ashtabula County injection wells last year. In 2014, the county took in 1.1 million barrels, and remains one of the top 10 Ohio counties with the most brine dumping.
Across the state, about 1.3 billion gallons of waste were dumped last year. About half of that waste came from outside the state, according to Pesec's research. Projections show the state could end up taking in more than 120 billion gallons per year.
"How high is that going to go?" she said.
Pesec also pointed to the increasing frequency of earthquakes in the region. More than 1,000 earthquakes in Mahoning, Harrison and Trumbull counties have been linked to either injection wells or the hydraulic fracturing process itself.
Patterson said he was unaware that frackwater had close to 700 additives, a figure Pesec also introduced during the Tuesday meeting.
She said almost 700 peer-reviewed articles have been published on the effects of shale development, and since 2013, more than 80 percent noted public health hazards, elevated health risks or adverse health outcomes.
"The science is saying we should be very careful with this," Pesec said.
Commissioners Casey Kozlowski and Peggy Carlo were also in attendance. The board passed a resolution last year opposing the creation of any new injection wells in the county. Kozlowski said he believes fracking organizations will come to the table once legislation starts encroaching on their interests.
"We need other boards — the municipal league, farm bureau, farmers union — to get involved," he said. "Encourage other folks in other organizations that you may be a part of to get active in this discussion and make this a legislative priority moving forward."