SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

September 11, 2012

Fracking wells, uproar – lawsuit

VOTE IN NOVEMBER

City aiming to stop wells

Mansfield wants ‘fracking’ waste to go elsewhere

By Aaron Marshall THE PLAIN DEALER

Mansfield voters will decide in November whether they want to join a growing movement among Ohio cities trying to block injection wells that store waste from the controversial hydraulic fracturing process.

Using Ohio’s home-rule provision, Mansfield officials have placed ground-breaking language on the ballot designed to stop injection wells — aimed squarely at a pair planned by a Texas company — from being located in the Richland County city of 48,000.
The Texas company has plans — approved by state regulators in 2011 — to build two injection wells on 4.9 acres and ship in up to 82 railroad tank cars a week of oilfield waste.

  • Mansfield’s novel legal approach to fight back using the home-rule provision of the Ohio Constitution is part of a larger not-in-my-backyard sentiment that has been spreading across Ohio recently against new injection wells.
  • On Aug. 2, Cincinnati became the first Ohio city to vote to ban injection wells within its borders, and bans have followed quickly in the cities of Yellow Springs and Niles.

Activists in Broadview Heights are pushing for a similar ban, and an Athens County advisory committee on drilling is pushing for changes to state regulations on injection wells that are about to be approved.    The cities are seeking to avoid becoming dumping grounds for waste fluids that are the byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in which millions of gallons of chemical-laced water are used to crack open rock formations holding gas deposits deep under the Earth’s surface to release the energy.

The millions of barrels of waste produced typically contain a brine-water mix including chemicals used in the oil and gas production process, some of them toxic. Injection wells funnel the brine-water mix into geological formations thousands of feet below the surface for storage. Some of them are old oil and gas production wells that have been converted, while others were designed originally as injection wells.

The threats from Mansfield officials have spurred a lawsuit filed on July 13 in federal court in Cleveland by the Texas company — Preferred Fluids Management — that asserts that the city has no right under Ohio law to regulate the injection wells. It says a 2004 Ohio law clearly hands all decisions about drilling regulations to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

(I guess that’s what courts are for, to settle these disputes.    But can anyone imagine what the world is coming to if the citizens of states have no say in what goes on in their own communities?   JT)

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