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Government and Politics

Forestry Service OKs Wayne Forest drilling
Decision comes as Republicans plan to blast Obama on oil and gas drilling policy.
This story is part of a special series.

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman claims the Obama administration wants to over-regulate oil and gas drilling.
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The U.S. Forestry Service is opening up the National Forest in Ohio to fracking just as Ohio Republicans are blasting President Obama on his energy policy. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more from Tampa.

Schultze: Dueling over drilling

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The U.S. Forestry Service announced Monday that it will allow fracking in the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio.

The announcement hit about the same time that Republicans in Tampa were blasting President Obama for not allow more of the shale drilling on public lands. They also were going over polls and strategies that suggest Mitt Romney could swing Ohio by backing more drilling. Polling Group Inc. says Ohioans are three times more likely to vote for a politician who backs more drilling.

Even before that session, Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Rob Portman was accusing the administration of slowing the process.

“It’s really a revolution in terms of energy development and this administration… they’ve been dragging their feet. Right now there are a dozen different agencies and departments in Washington looking at regulating at a federal level what we’re goidn in ohio in terms of oil and gas development. We don’t need that. Ohio has its own regulations. It’s working very well.”

In its announcement, the Forest Service says the Wayne forest's management plan could adequately address any damage and risks from the drilling and there is no need for a new environmental study. Environmental groups say the plan never contemplated the fracking, and Athens County, Ohio University and the city of Athens oppose it.

Republicans, including Senate candidate Josh Mandel, have dismissed the critics as extremists.

Listener Comments:

What disturbs me most about the WKSU radio story is the one-sidedness of its content. No effort made to speak with anyone who knows anything about the issues. Just quoting press releases from one side. Rob Portman's speech/faux interview is just a press release with the party line. Lazy journalism. Easy to do. Don't have to work too hard to do it. And you have fun at the convention acting like a journalist. I hope this is not a prime example of Schultze's work. I pray not.

Posted by: John Butler (Athens) on September 18, 2012 1:09AM
Mr. Portman has some homework to do before he circulates on our behalf that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is doing an adequate job of developing and enforcing regulations sufficient to protect human health and life in this state.

In my own records reviews I was dumbfounded to see, for example, no production records or annual reporting on the volume of fracking waste dumped down a given well (we have nearly 200 active class II injection wells in this state) for going on a decade - multiple wells, not just one or two isolated instances. When I asked the ODNR clerk where the records were (I'd asked for all of them), I was told that the companies don't have to send them. I don't know what would be so hard about sending something. There's no data to collect, no monitoring required. All they have to do is write down a number and mail it.

These annual reports should also include pressure testing and mechanical integrity testing. In record after record I saw where this had not been performed - no testing to determine the integrity of these aging wells that are now accepting record volumes of "brine" (fracking fluid is NOT brine), that may have been accepting little to none before fracking came to town. One well in our community permitted to accept 200 barrels of brine a day, received over 45,000 the last six weeks of 2011 - even by voluntarily reported numbers. Nothing was done. I was told it was legal for them to average an entire years' worth and dump it as fast is it could flow.

If this does not sound like a big deal to you, then maybe you don't live here.

Injection wells may have been around for a long time, but it's only been within the last several years that we've been literally swamped with interstate brine trafficking under the guise of "commerce."

These trucks careen through your community 24/7. Now they are hauling waste in by barge because the trucks can't get here fast enough, and the ODNR has declared they don't even need a permit to do it.

In the state of Ohio, they don't need a permit to haul produced water and flowback known to contain radiation, diesel fuel, heavy metals, and chemicals that are officially classified as hazardous waste through your drinking water and then truck across the state at will to inject into wells that are not being tested (for up to nearly 30 years from what I saw - federal requirement is once every 5) to confirm the integrity of the cement casings on the wells whose purpose it is to keep toxic produced water and flowback from fracking OUT of our drinking water aquifers.

Doesn't sound much like responsible regulation to me.

Take a look at Plunderbund's report on failed well inspections in 2011.

Of the 64,378 wells in our state, only a tenth of them inspected, showed a 10% failure rate. My family has lived in SE Ohio for 7 generations, but with injection wells in the state of Ohio now being permitted to accept 600,000 barrels (42 gallons to a barrel) of this waste per year, and the sad, sorry state of enforcement that coexists, I am not comfortable getting my drinking water from or living anywhere near these wells.

Did I mention there is no siting criteria for injection wells in either the existing or proposed regulation?

Injection well construction was put on hold last winter for 8 months after earthquakes were induced across the state by record volumes of injection. Now they ODNR is trying to approve these 29 pending permits with lightening speed - why? Because all of the wells in the state of Ohio are leased to capacity. My guess is they are probably even exceeding it.

How are we supposed to believe that Ohio can move forward with fracking when we can't even handle the volume of waste PA, WV, TX and now NY are rejecting and shipping to us by truck, barge, and railroad?

It is easy to say their's no problem, everything's fine, when there's no one - not even a fox - watching the hen house.

I'm from Ohio. Mr. Portman does not represent my views or my community's best interest, and I would challenge him to identify which "dozen different agencies and departments in Washington" are looking out for us, and specify how that concern could be excessive or unwarranted, given the current state of affairs. Maybe if we could move some of those brine trucks and drilling rigs out that have obliterated the Horizon.

I'm from Ohio, and I've got a problem with this.

Posted by: Elisa Young (Ohio) on August 28, 2012 10:08AM
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