NILES - Niles city and Weathersfield Township could face an uphill battle in their opposition to the proposed drilling of brine injection wells in the city and township.
Niles City Council passed a resolution Wednesday banning injection well activity within city limits, a follow-up to Weathersfield's earlier action. Mayor Ralph Infante also sent a letter Thursday to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management opposing the well permits applied for by American Water Management Services Co.
"The uncertainty of waste water and potential problems it may cause are worrisome to our communities," the letter reads.
The letter states that one of the wells would be along Route 169 next to Niles Commerce Park in northern Weathersfield Township and would be located within five blocks of the city's downtown area. Infante also is concerned that the brine will have to be transported through the city to get it to the injection well site.
Injection wells are used to store liquid byproducts from the extraction of natural gas from underground shale deposits.
According to a legal notice published in the Tribune Chronicle, the wells in question will be drilled at depths of anywhere from 4,450 feet to 9,100 feet and one will accept on average 2,200 barrels of salt water waste per day, while the other would take an average of 1,000 barrels daily.
Weathersfield trustee Steve Gerberry said Wednesday night that Niles' opposition to the wells would have "more teeth," but conceded that ODNR's denial of the well permit applications would be a first.
Heidi Hetzel-Evans, spokeswoman for ODNR's Division of Oil and Gas, said there is no difference between a city and township opposing a well. She said the permits haven't come up for consideration yet, but ODNR will deny an application if the opposing community can provide convincing evidence that health, safety or an environmental resource would be directly threatened by a well.
No permits have been approved since the state placed a moratorium new injection wells following a 4.0-magnitude earthquake in Youngstown on New Year's Eve.
Since then, changes have begun to be implemented to both the review and testing process.
The review period was extended from 45 to 60 days up to 45 to 90 days. Also, the state is now permitted to request pressure testing, geological investigations, seismic testing, and radiological testing on newly drilled wells, as well at submittal of a plan for monitoring seismic activity.
"Even after drilling the well, if we are not assured of the progress with health and safety testing, we can still shut down the well," Hetzel-Evans said. "This is a highly scrutinized and monitored program."
She added that the new laws also increased the time that public notices must run in newspapers, from one day to five consecutive days at a minimum, and that communities now have two weeks to voice their opposition and request a hearing.
Based on the state's criteria, and Gerberry said he's unsure if the city and his township can meet that burden.
"We can oppose it all we want, it's going to be very difficult to listen to or grant our opposition on those terms," he said.
The ODNR'S Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review will vote next month on whether to make the emergency rules permanent.