Fri., 1:48pm: UPDATE2 ODNR links fracking to Valley earthquakes

COLUMBUS Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer announced new, stronger permit conditions for drilling near faults or areas of past seismic activity.

The new policies are in response to recent seismic events in Poland that show a probable connection to hydraulic fracturing near a previously unknown microfault, according to an ODNR press release.

New permits issued by ODNR for horizontal drilling within 3 miles of a known fault or area of seismic activity greater than a 2.0 magnitude would require companies to install sensitive seismic monitors, according to the release. If those monitors detect a seismic event in excess of 1.0 magnitude, activities would pause while the cause is investigated. If the investigation reveals a probable connection to the hydraulic fracturing process, all well completion operations will be suspended.

The department will also review previously issued permits that have not been drilled.

“While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment,” said Zehringer. “Not only will this reasonable course of action help to ensure public health and safety but it will also help us to expand our underground maps and provide more information about all types of seismicity in Ohio.”

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission supports the ODNR decision, according to the commission’s director.

“ODNR’s directives are a sensible response to a serious issue that regulators across the country are closely examining,” said Gerry Baker, the commission’s associate executive director . “IOGCC is pleased to work with Ohio and other states to share scientific data to better understand the nature of these occurrences.”

Ohio’s Groundwater Protection Council also announced its support for the new regulations.

“These additional standards add even more strength to Ohio’s already comprehensive regulatory program,” said Mike Paque, the council’s executive director. “State regulators are taking an aggressive lead in tackling tough and complicated oil and gas issues and ODNR is no exception.”

Updates will be posted when available. Complete coverage will appear in Saturday’s Tribune Chronicle print edition.