SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

September 25, 2012

Is Ohio ready for “Fracking”?

Ohio not ready for ‘fracking’?

Report warns of costs of wear and tear, accidents

By Spencer Hunt THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

A new report by an environmental-advocacy group warns that Ohio is unprepared to shoulder the costs of a coming shale-drilling boom and should take steps to make sure oil and gas companies, not taxpayers, pay to protect the state.

Other studies have warned about the pollution and health risks of shale drilling and “fracking,” but Environment Ohio’s “Cost of Fracking” report defines them in terms of dollars and cents.

  • The report highlights a $265 million estimate to repair Pennsylvania roads damaged by drillers’ trucks and $300,000 that one oil company paid to replace and filter contaminated well water for 14 homes around Dimock, Pa.

The road-repair figure came from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “Look at what’s happening in other states,” said Julian Boggs, a policy advocate for Environment Ohio. “We want to get out in front of this thing.”

  • State and drilling-industry officials said steps have been taken to make sure Ohioans are protected.

“Everyone recognizes that we need to make sure we have adequate regulations in place,” said Tom Stewart, vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Drilling Ohio’s Utica shale is expected to mirror activity in Pennsylvania, where thousands of wells have been drilled into Marcellus shale.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has so far approved permits for 375 Utica wells in eastern Ohio, 134 of which have been drilled. Officials estimate 2,250 wells could be completed by the end of 2015.

The fracking process injects millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to shatter the shale and free trapped oil and gas. Industry officials insist fracking is safe.

  • Boggs said lawmakers should strengthen state laws to require that oil and gas companies have enough money to pay for environmental cleanups and other drilling-related costs.

Natural Resources officials declined to comment on the report but said in a statement that state drilling regulations “reflect the latest science and best practices.”

Stewart said a state law enacted in May already contains several measures intended to increase protections and drilling oversight.

  • One measure demands that oil and gas companies obtain at least $5 million in liability insurance before they can get a shale-drilling permit. Companies must have at least $1 million to drill conventional wells.

Stewart said drillers also routinely sign agreements with county and township officials in which they promise to upgrade and repair roads as needed.

shunt@dispatch.com

@CDEnvironment

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