It's not your father's gas well !!!
NEW CONCORD, Ohio -- A diverse audience of students, faculty, landowners, interested residents, oil and gas industry representatives, and public officials attended a panel presentation, "It's Not Your Father's Gas Well - Part 2" at Muskingum University earlier this week.
The goal of the program was to provide information about current research findings relating to impacts the oil and gas industry has had in areas where drilling in the Utica Shale is occurring, and information about injection wells.
Ted Auch, PhD, began the evening by explaining his organization, Fractracker.org. Auch is the Ohio program director, and is gathering data in order to provide information that may aid in the development of public policies.
Auch shared maps showing the location of 240 Class II injection wells in Ohio and landfills that are being permitted to accept hazardous waste from the drilling process, as well as the location of the over 800 currently permitted shale gas wells.
Auch reported, "I've been studying 308 of the active Ohio wells and calculating their water and chemical usage. Ohio drillers are using 4.6 to 4.8 million gallons for each well, which is twice what drillers use in Oklahoma. I believe this difference can be attributed to the low prices drillers are being charged for water in Ohio. Various entities in the state are selling our water too cheaply. This doesn't encourage the best conservation practices."
Auch pointed out, "The wells in Carroll County are currently using 85 percent as much water as the rest of the residential and commercial customers in that county. Less than 10 percent of the water being used in Ohio, as part of the drilling process, is being recycled. Again, a lower figure than in other states."
Auch invited interested citizens to study the data at www.fracktrackers.org.
Dr. Deb Cowden, a family practice physician in Knox County, said, "I became interested in the process of shale gas drilling after we received a notice from a gas and oil company asking to lease the family farm where my husband and I live." After reviewing medical journals, Cowden became concerned enough that she read research studies providing evidence about adverse health effects on gas industry workers and people living near large wells.
Cowden reported, "Air pollution is the main cause for concern. Sources of air pollution are the fine grain sands used in the fracking process which float in the air and, if inhaled, can cause lung disease; diesel fumes from drilling engines, fracking pumps, and truck traffic; and volatile organic chemicals that off-gas from condensate tanks, compressor stations, and evaporative pools or leak from gas lines and piping."
Cowden summarized a Colorado study where researchers monitored air quality around gas wells and compressor stations every 6 days for 22 months. She reported, "They found a number of chemicals in the air 100 percent of the times the monitoring was done. I'm most concerned about the high concentrations of benzene, which is linked to blood cancers, and xylene, which has neurological effects. In the Colorado study, people living within a half-mile of the wells experienced the most severe health effects, although those living further away were more likely to have respiratory problems." Cowden pointed out that Ohio regulations allow drilling within 100 to 150 feet of occupied buildings.
Trent Dougherty, an attorney with the Ohio Environmental Council, reported gaps within Ohio's regulatory structure concern him.
He explained, "Past Ohio legislation limited the ability of local communities to have input on where wells or injection facilities are permitted, unlike the regulations for coal mines, which require more notice to communities when a permit is proposed and more opportunity for local citizens to appeal the location of these activities."
Daugherty said the OEC recently developed a proposal called the SAFER GAS Act, which suggests ways to close gaps in Ohio laws to protect air quality, property owner rights, and community rights as well as other concerns. Dougherty reported the proposals are not designed to stop companies from taking advantage of the natural gas resources in Ohio but would provide more protections to the environment and ordinary citizens.
"Some of the proposed regulations would require notice be given when a well has been permitted on a landowner's property, when an existing lease is transferred to another party, and whenever the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' personnel come onto a property to investigate a reported problem or accident connected to shale gas drilling." In addition, the proposed regulations would allow landowners to audit companies' production records to ensure they are getting royalties consistent with their lease agreement.
The entire proposal is available at the OEC's website: www.theoec.org. Dougherty encouraged citizens to review the proposal and contact state legislators to express their views.