Injection well owner appeals to Ohio Supreme Court

WARREN — The company that owns an injection well on state Route 169 in Weathersfield is trying two new avenues to restore operations at a well the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management originally approved for operation, but later suspended after seismic activity was reported.

AWMS Water Solutions LLC on April 5 filed a notice of appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking the court to reconsider a March decision denying an AWMS request in the 11th District Court of Appeals. The company also filed a motion with the state oil and gas commission to vacate the Division of Oil and Gas’ decisions levied in 2015 and 2016 that stopped operations at the well, according to the documents.

The writ of mandamus filed by the company with the 11th District requested the court block the state from continuing to implement an operations suspension order for the brine disposal well in Weathersfield.

“The division’s ‘temporary pause’ has been nothing short of a revocation of its operating permit. It will not work with AWMS,” the motion to vacate filed with the commission states. “There was no imminent threat or danger from the AWMS #2 well in 2015 and there is no reason to believe that there would be any imminent threat or danger in 2019, and certainly not if AWMS’ plan is put in place.”

After being granted permission by the state, AWMS began operating the wells in May and June 2014.

In July and August 2014, seismic events of 1.7 and 2.1 were measured in the vicinity of the wells, which led to the suspension order for the larger one, which took 95 percent of the waste, according to court documents. The well taking the smaller amounts was allowed to keep operating. Operation at that well ended in 2015, according to the court ruling.

AWMS was ordered to come up with a written plan to resume operations at the well, but ODNR and a court found the plan was “generic and inadequate,” so the suspension order wasn’t lifted. The plan included limits on the speed, frequency and amounts of injections, and detailed monitoring protocols.

AWMS wanted the 11th District Court of Appeals to intervene and stop the state from “depriving them of all or, at least partial, economically-viable use of the property.”

But the court found ODNR is within its rights to regulate the injection well industry, and when the permits were initially awarded in 2011, it was before the agency had a good grasp on the relationships between injection wells and seismic activity.

AWMS’ notice of appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court of the 11th District Court of Appeals’ decision does not detail the specific items the company wants the higher court to reconsider. But a full merit brief will be filed before the 40-day deadline has passed, said Stephen G. Kilper, vice president of AWMS, a subsidiary of Avalon Holdings Inc.

The company, in its motion to vacate filed with the oil and gas commission, states the seismic activity was minor and the state can’t be sure it was a result of the well’s operations. It also states its plan to operate the well with regards to potential seismic activity is sufficient.

Seismic events at levels similar to what was measured near the wells occur across the state “nearly every day,” the motion states. And the seismic events at the AWMS property occurs “nearly two miles below the surface,” which allows the “energy to dissipate” before reaching the surface.

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