The other day a neighbor asked me if I knew anything about the new regulations regarding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of the Marcellus and Utica shales. He said he thought the regulations recently went into effect, but he didn't know much about it. I told him I knew a little about the developments, but I would try to get more information.
The next day when I got to work I remembered that Ohio Petroleum Council Executive Director Terry Fleming recently had visited with the Editorial Board here at the newspaper, and we talked about many topics related to fracking, but only briefly about any new regulations. And then I remembered he left a press packet, so I thought maybe there was something in there that explains things. And there was.
Before going to the press packet, I searched for new regulations regarding fracking, and got all kinds of information about the new regulations. It was all legalese, the actual bills and how the bill progressed through the state Legislature. I did find out it was SB 315, and that Gov. John Kasich signed it June 11, and it went into effect July 1. But the stuff I was looking at regarding the bill was hard to understand. That's where the press kit from Fleming comes in.
In the packet was an overview of the regulations. The summary was prepared by the Ohio Division of Natural Resources. The overview I can understand. It's a little long, but it contained some relevant information when it comes to regulating drilling and the protection of landowners' rights and public safety. I'll share it with you here:
''Senate Bill 315 establishes one of the nation's toughest regulatory frameworks for overseeing the new technologies that allow for the exploration of natural gas in deep shale rock formations. The new law builds on recently approved well construction standards, which are extremely protective of groundwater, and the environment. SB 315 does the following:
''Creates the nation's first combined well construction and hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure requirement. The bill requires chemical disclosure during all aspects of the initial drilling process and during hydraulic fracturing, while adhering to federal and state trade secret / proprietary laws. However, ODNR can upon request obtain proprietary chemical formulas to conduct an investigation or in response to a spill. Typically, proprietary chemical formulas comprise less than 0.01 percent of the total fluid used to hydraulically fracture a well.
''The public has the ability to view hydraulic fracturing fluid compositions used at specific wells at www.fracfocus.org. ODNR is in the process of developing a searchable database where the public can also view the chemicals used in Ohio wells.
''Requires the sharing of all chemical information with doctors. Doctors may share even proprietary chemical information with the patient and other medical professionals directly involved in treating a patient. Doctors may also submit any report required by law or professional ethical standards to public health agencies and other appropriate government bodies.
''Allows appeals to the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission for mandatory pooling, unitization and establishing of an exception tract permit issuance. Other drilling permits are issued administratively once all statutory requirements are met by applicants and may be challenged in court. This provision does not repeal or eliminate any existing legal authority to appeal permits.
''Establishes mandatory daily fines for well operators who violate the law. Daily fines will be as high as $20,000 depending on the type and severity of the violation.
''Requires well operators take pre-drilling well water samples within 1,500 feet of a proposed horizontal well and disclose the results in permit applications. SB 315 expands testing requirements to 1,500 feet and applies this standard to both urban and rural areas. Previously water wells were tested within 300 feet of oil and gas wells in urban areas. Water wells in rural areas were not tested.
''Requires well operators to disclose the proposed source of water used in the well drilling and hydraulic fracturing process. When applying for a permit, operators are required to include the rate, volume and source of water that will be used for production operations. ODNR's Division of Soil and Water will evaluate these permits to protect against negative impacts to water sources.
''Encourages well operators to enter into a Road Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) with local government. A RUMA is an agreement between local government and well operators placing responsibility for road construction and repairs on those well operators. The agreement also stipulates designated travel routes for heavy equipment haulers to ensure safety and minimize impact. SB 315 requires ODNR and ODOT work with local officials to review and report on the effectiveness of the RUMA process.
''Draws upon the expertise of all state agencies. ODNR now has the ability to call upon experts from other state agencies to seek regulatory guidance on issues related to drilling.
''Increases liability insurance for horizontal wells. This provision increases well operator liability insurance requirements by five times in rural areas and nearly doubles the requirement in urban areas.
''Allows ODNR to better track and more closely monitor the activity of brine haulers. This provision provides for detailed tracking of brine.
''Requires injection well owners to electronically transmit quarterly reports to ODNR with information about each shipment. This provision provides ODNR with detailed brine data.''
I pulled my notes that I took while the editorial board was talking with Fleming and remembered a couple more things he said. The shale boom in this area is not expected to really take off for 1-1/2 to 2 years at the minimum, but once it gets going it's expected to affect the area for decades. And when I asked if he knew of any obstacles that could kill shale development here, he simply replied, ''dry holes and the government.''
Robinson is the editor of the Tribune Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.