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Trump Administration Abandons Tighter Regulations on Fracking in Wayne Forest and Other Public Lands

Drilling Crew

The Trump administration decided quietly over the holidays to abandon proposed federal regulations governing fracking on public lands. For Ohio environmentalists, the decision is big and bad news. For Ohio’s oil and gas industry, it’s a practical approach to regulation. 

The Interior Department has rescinded a proposed Obama administration rule that would have set limits on hydraulic fracturing in places like Ohio’s Wayne National Forest. The rules would have tightened standards for well construction and required disclosure of toxic chemicals contained in fracking fluids.

But Mike Chadsey of Ohio’s Oil and Gas Association says Ohio already has adequate disclosure and other requirements and states are better positioned to set standards.

“We’ve got folks that live in the areas they regulate. The county regulator lives in that county. That is far superior than someone in D.C. saying hey do XYZ and they’ve never even been to Monroe County.” 

But Nathan Johnson  of the Ohio Environmental Council says disclosure rules regarding chemical spills aren’t enough.

“We have some limited propriety chemical requirements in Ohio, under state law, but we’re really missing out on the stronger first-responder type of disclosure we could have seen.”

He cites an explosion in 2014 just outside the Wayne forest in which operator Halliburton took several days to disclose the chemicals.  

Chadsey says state regulations supply the needed information to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and ensure it's available to first responders.

First responder alerts

Johnson has another concern about the loss of the proposed federal requirement that companies store their drilling waste in special tanks.

Pits vs. tanks

He says under Ohio law, such tanks aren’t required, and operators often opt for open pits.

“This stuff is highly toxic. When it’s just out in an open pit there’s a much greater risk of leaks and spills. And wildlife are often also negatively impacted. Birds and bats, it’s known that these pits often attract them and are sort of death traps for these species.”

M.L. Schultze is a freelance journalist. She spent 25 years at The Repository in Canton where she was managing editor for nearly a decade, then served as WKSU's news director and digital editor until her retirement.