Cincinnati City Council passes ordinance to ban injection wells

Cincinnati City Council passes ordinance to ban injection wells

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - On Wednesday, the Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance banning any disposal of waste into any land by well or otherwise, in an effort to prevent the waste produced from fracking to enter Cincinnati ground.

The ordinance references concerns of potential harm to citizens and the environment. Those concerns are debated by oil and natural gas industry representatives.

The oil and natural gas industry says they have been using injections wells in Ohio since 1984. They say those wells are dug anywhere from seven to twelve thousand feet below the ground and are regulated by the state to meet safety standards.

"Now there's never one-hundred percent guarantee on anything in life but they're very, very safe and they've been used safely for the last 30 years," said Terry Fleming, Executive Director of the Ohio Petroleum Council.

"We do know that these well casings fail and eventually all of them will fail," argued Alison Auciello with the non-profit Food and Water Watch. "So there isn't this perfect isolation from the environment that they're implying."

The second concern, beyond water contamination, is the potential for earthquakes like the ones in Youngstown that ODNR says happened as a result of a well being drilled on a previously unknown fault line.

"It's possible they could contribute if not done correctly, but I think Ohio has positioned itself very well with its regulations that are in place now that the likelihood of that is very minute." said Fleming.

"They didn't know that the fault line was there until they had the earthquakes, so what we're going to get is their best guesses at whether or not we're going to have earthquakes," said Auciello.

The natural gas industry questions whether the concerns are even relevant in southwest Ohio since it is not considered to be a viable area for natural gas extraction.

"My guess is the chance was you were never going to get an injection well anyway," Fleming shared.

Environmentalists, however, are not convinced and they believe every city should have their say.

"If we allowed every local community to decide yes or no my guess is, using the fear factor people would choose ... it's like when they say 'How come you don't build more refineries?' Well, because 'not in my backyard'," said Fleming.

"The point here is that it should be able to stand. Local municipalities should have the right to chose whether or not oil and gas activities happen in their community," said Auciello.

With a 2004 state law giving ODNR the job of regulating the industry, the city's ban is being called into question.

"The ordinance is more of a statement by your city council than carrying any weight of law," Fleming argued. "I suppose that they could challenge it if they like, the state law but it has been challenged before and upheld."

"Yeah, this is a challenge," Auciello said.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio currently has 176 injection wells. Spokesman Carlo LoParo says it is hard to estimate how many new injection wells will be drilled in the future. While the total number of wells will increase slightly, he says new technology and increased drilling activity will allow operators to recycle more water and reduce reliance on injection wells. LoParo says there are no applications for injection wells in the Cincinnati area and ODNR does not foresee any applications coming in.

LoParo says there are currently 105 horizontal shale natural gas wells drilled in Ohio.

They estimate that by the end of 2012 approximately 250 horizontal wells will be drilled. They also expect by the end of 2015 that number will rise to 2,250 horizontal wells.

The process of extracting natural gas from those wells is what is known as "fracking".

Governor Kasich produced an executive order earlier in July to further regulate the industry.

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