ODNR is right to collect data

Gas and oil drilling do not appear to cause anywhere near the environmental damage some activists claim. Still, when there are valid questions, state and federal governments should be alert to potential problems.

For that reason, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is right in its plan to monitor nonproductive wells used to dispose of waste from other wells.

Sometimes referred to as ”injection wells” because millions of gallons of waste fluid from other drilling operations are pumped into them, the disposal facilities are scattered throughout eastern Ohio. The state contains 188 disposal wells.

Both in the Buckeye State and elsewhere, scientists have said it is possible the disposal wells are linked to minor earthquakes.

That became a special concern in Ohio during 2011, when an injection well near Youngstown was blamed for 11 earthquakes, including a 4.0-magnitude felt throughout Trumbull County.

After that occurred, the state established new, stricter rules for disposal wells. It stepped up seismic monitoring around some of them. A put a moratorium on news wells near the Youngstown site.

Now, the ODNR plans to spend $257,287 to buy additional seismic monitoring equipment to provide additional information about underground disturbances linked to disposal wells. That is an excellent idea, especially considering that many injection wells are expected to open in neighboring Portage County, and some more right here in Trumbull County. A deep well site is planned for Weathersfield, just outside the radius of the moratorium.

Much more information about the alleged link between earthquakes and disposal wells is needed to decide whether existing state restrictions are adequate to prevent problems with the facilities.

The ODNR plan should help ensure any decisions on injection wells are made on the basis of scientific knowledge, not scare tactics like so many of the unfounded complaints made about the drilling industry. Those scare tactics were used recently to convince Niles legislators to ban all oil and gas industry operations within city limits. After realizing they had been duped, Niles City Council quickly rescinded the legislation.

Obtaining accurate data, such as what ODNR plans to retrieve, and having it compiled by neither industry proponents nor fear-mongers, should give the public the necessary protection.