Deep-shale Fracking Comes to Ohio's Pristine Grand River Watershed
Citing concerns over the first deep-shale drilling operation in Ohio's pristine Grand River watershed, conservation groups are calling on state regulators to tighten controls on drilling for oil and gas in Ohio to better protect water, wildlife and property.
The groups want the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to strengthen state rules to protect water resources by:
• broadening the distance that oil and gas drillers are required to test for water quality before and after drilling.
• expand the list of chemicals for which drillers must test for possible water contamination before and after drilling.
• expand the testing to also include water quantity to test for any changes to water flow from a water well or waterway.
The groups also want ODNR to adopt stronger protections to better protect livestock, wildlife, property values and local communities by:
• banning the disposal of toxic-tainted waste materials at drilling site waste pits.
• stepping up testing in nearby streams to protect fish and wildlife from contamination.
• closing the regulatory loophole that permits drillers to ship radioactive-laced drill cutting waste for disposal at solid waste landfills.
• periodically updating regulations to keep pace with industry practices.
• stopping the unfunded mandate on local communities, which have no local authority to regulate drilling but bear much of the costs from traffic, noise and road damage.
"Ohio's rules need to catch up to the shale gas boom spreading across Ohio, starting right here in the Grand River watershed," said Trent Dougherty, director of legal affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC). "Oil and gas may be basic commodities. But clean water is priceless. That's why we need the ODNR to protect our heritage of abundant water and wildlife resources and our respect for people's property."
Representatives of the OEC, Buckeye Forest Council and the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability & Protection (NEOGAP) briefed reporters on Jan. 5 at the Middlefield public library in Northeast Ohio's Geauga County. The groups cited a deep shale-gas well located less than 1,500 feet from a tributary of the Grand River—a site that could be the first of hundreds or thousands such wells to eventually dot the Grand River watershed landscape. Drillers set up operations at the site just a few weeks ago.
The Grand River represents one of the finest examples of a natural stream found anywhere in Ohio. According to the ODNR, the Grand River boasts "the most aquatic diversity of any Ohio Lake Erie tributary." The Grand River is designated as an official State Wild and Scenic River and is an angler's paradise—some 90,000 steelhead trout are stocked there each year. Ohio law, however, provides no additional protections from drilling for a State Wild and Scenic River, such as minimum distance set-backs from a drilling site.
The new well, near Parkman, Ohio, is located just a 15 minute drive east of the site of one of the most destructive failures by the oil and gas industry to follow its own best practices—and a colossal lapse of government oversight. Early in the morning on Dec. 15, 2007, natural gas migrated from a natural gas well to the basement of a house in Bainbridge Township. A resulting explosion rocked the house. Thankfully, the two residents in the home were not seriously injured, but the home was severely damaged and dozens of other residential water wells were contaminated.
State investigators determined the gas migration and resulting explosion was caused by over-pressurization of the surface-production casing of the gas well. In layperson's terms, the explosion was the result of poor well construction. This explosion resulted in water well contamination, a lawsuit by 42 neighboring property owners, a year-long investigation by ODNR and the biggest overhaul of the state's oil and gas drilling laws—Ohio Senate Bill 165, passed by the Ohio General Assembly in 2010. The well was located less than 1,000 feet from the house.
Under current Ohio law, a drilling operation may be located as close as 150 feet from an occupied residence. The ODNR is currently developing new regulations to implement the law changes.
In the four years since the Bainbridge event, however, Ohio faces a different form of oil and gas production—the industrial-scale drilling for shale gas. This unconventional drilling involves the use of hundreds of different chemical additives and the disposal of literally billions of gallons of toxic-tainted wastewater from Ohio and neighboring Pennsylvania oil and gas wells.
"Ohio is outdriving its headlights when it comes to identifying and controlling the risks of the shale gas boom," said the OEC's Dougherty. "Ohio is permitting the next generation of wells without first fixing the ills of last generation's risks."
The new generation of drilling, commonly referred to as horizontal hydro-fracking or "fracking," uses high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals to release gas and oil trapped in shale formations located thousands of feet below the earth's surface. After drilling vertically to the depth that reaches slightly above the shale formation, the drill bit is turned horizontally and pushed into the shale, sometimes as much as 3,000 feet. Small fractures are created in the targeted area with underground explosions and a mixture of sand, water and chemicals is injected at high pressures into the newly created fractures to further crack the rock and release the trapped gas.
To exploit the deep natural gas-rich deposits in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations, operators must drill and frack like never before. This scale of drilling requires more of everything: more acreage (5 acres cleared per well pad); more chemicals to stimulate production; more fresh water (up to 5 million gallons per fracking cycle) and more truck traffic (up to 13,000 diesel truck trips per well site).
The calls for reform are hard on the heels of a series of 11 earthquakes recorded since March 2011 near Youngstown. Two large earthquakes occurred in December, causing state regulators to ask the operator to cease injecting waste there. ODNR and the well operator appropriately halted operation of injection wells in the area until scientists could analyze the situation. Scientists from Columbia University believe the earthquakes almost certainly were caused by the high-pressure injection of oil and gas waste fluids into a deep underground disposal well located nearby. These experts say that it may take a year for the waste injection rumblings to dissipate.
The environmental groups calling for reform believe Ohio should follow the same sound advice for the entire oil and gas production process—from exploration and production to waste disposal—to ensure that the best regulations are in place to protect the public, property owners, water and wildlife.
"The earthquakes in Youngstown, if nothing else, show that there are countless risks with deep shale drilling. While there will be risks with everything in life, how much risk is acceptable?" Dougherty asked.
In response to these risks, the groups are renewing their call first made in March 2011 for a moratorium on any new deep-shale drilling until drilling practices are demonstrated to be safe for the environment and human health and are properly regulated.
"Ohio's oil and gas laws are deeply flawed in many respects. The spraying of toxic fracking wastewater on community roads, weak to non-existent water well testing requirements and lax wastewater containment rules are just a few examples," said Ellie Rauh, fracking coordinator for Buckeye Forest Council. "The Ohio Division of Oil and Gas can make and enforce rules that fix these problems and that better protect Ohioan's health and the environment. Although the division is currently rewriting its rules, it has not yet addressed any of the crucial health and safety problems that should greatly concern the public. We call on the Ohio Division of Oil and Gas to fill the holes in its regulations and to draft a sensible and protective set of rules."
"With all the fracking that's starting up in Ohio, we are concerned that no one in our state government is really working to effectively safeguard Ohio's most precious natural resource—our safe drinking water," said Ron Prosek, NEOGAP vice president.
"Natural gas can be a bridge fuel to cleaner sources of energy. But the way we're going, Ohio is building a bridge to unknown risk and danger," added Dougherty.
For more information, click here.
The mission of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is to secure healthy air, land and water for all who call Ohio home. The OEC is Ohio’s leading advocate for fresh air, clean water and sustainable land use. The OEC has a 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles and statewide partnerships, the OEC secures a healthier environment for Ohio’s families and communities. For more information, visit www.theOEC.org.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
- Climate Crisis Brings India's Worst Locust Invasion in Decades ... ›
- Climate Crisis Made Australia's Historic Wildfires at Least 30% More ... ›
- 4 Climate Crisis Solutions No One Is Talking About - EcoWatch ›
- Top Government Scientist Transferred After Questioning Trump ... ›
- Trump Admin Manipulated Wildfire Science to Encourage Logging ... ›
- NOAA Officials Backed Trump's False Dorian Claims Under Threat ... ›
- Coronavirus and the Terrifying Muzzling of Public Health Experts ... ›
- 'Science Under Siege' From Trump Admin: New Report Warns We ... ›
More than 350 elephants have died in Botswana since May, and no one knows why.
- Botswana Auctions Off First Licenses to Kill Elephants Since Ending ... ›
- 'Heartbreaking' Vulture Poisoning in South Africa Raises Alarm ... ›
The chance that UK summer days could hit the 40 degree Celsius mark on the thermometer is on the rise, a new study from the country's Met Office Hadley Centre has found.
- As Extreme Weather Turns Deadly in the UK, Climate Activists Are ... ›
- UK Parliament First in World to Declare Climate Emergency ... ›
By Melissa Hawkins
After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.
Seven day rolling average of number of people confirmed to have COVID-19, per day (not including today). This chart gets updated once per day with data by Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins university doesn't provide reliable data for March 12 and March 13. Johns Hopkins CSSE Get the data
To Have a Second Wave, the First Wave Needs to End.<p>A wave of an infection describes a large rise and fall in the number of cases. There isn't a precise epidemiological definition of when a wave begins or ends.</p><p>But with talk of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave" target="_blank">second wave in the news</a>, as an <a href="https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/mhawkins.cfm" target="_blank">epidemiologist and public health researcher</a>, I think there are two necessary factors that must be met before we can colloquially declare a second wave.</p><p>First, the virus would have to be controlled and transmission brought down to a very low level. That would be the end of the first wave. Then, the virus would need to reappear and result in a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.</p><p>Many countries in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0908-8" target="_blank">Europe and Asia have successfully ended the first wave</a>. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/08/new-zealand-abandons-covid-19-restrictions-after-nation-declared-no-cases" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> and <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">Iceland</a> have also made it through their first waves and are now essentially coronavirus-free, with very low levels of community transmission and only a handful of active cases currently.</p>
Different States, Different Trends<p>Looking at U.S. numbers as a whole hides what is really going on. Different states are in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html" target="_blank">vastly different situations right now</a> and when you look at states individually, four major categories emerge.</p><ol><li>Places where the first wave is ending: States in the Northeast and a few scattered elsewhere experienced large initial spikes but were able to mostly contain the virus and substantially brought down new infections. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/new-york-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">New York</a> is a good example of this.</li><li>Places still in the first wave: Several states in the South and West – see <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/texas-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/california-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">California</a> – had some cases early on, but are now seeing massive surges with no sign of slowing down.</li><li>Places in between: Many states were hit early in the first wave, managed to slow it down, but are either at a plateau – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/north-dakota-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">North Dakota</a> – or are now seeing steep increases – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/oklahoma-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Oklahoma</a>.</li><li>Places experiencing local second waves: Looking only at a state level, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/hawaii-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Hawaii</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/montana-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Montana</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/alaska-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Alaska</a> could be said to be experiencing second waves. Each state experienced relatively small initial outbreaks and was able to reduce spread to single digits of daily new confirmed cases, but are now all seeing spikes again.</li></ol><p>The trends aren't surprising based on how states have been dealing with reopening. The virus will go wherever there are susceptible people and until the U.S. stops community spread across the entire country, the first wave isn't over.</p>
What Could a Second Wave Look Like?<p>It is possible – though at this point it seems unlikely – that the U.S. could control the virus before a vaccine is developed. If that happens, it would be time to start thinking about a second wave. The question of what it might look like depends in large part on everyone's actions.</p><p>The <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1086%2F592454" target="_blank">1918 flu pandemic</a> was characterized by a mild first wave in the winter of 1917-1918 that went away in summer. After restrictions were lifted, people very quickly went back to pre-pandemic life. But a second, deadlier strain came back in fall of 1918 and third in spring of 1919. In total, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm" target="_blank">more than 500 million people were infected</a> worldwide and upwards of <a href="https://theconversation.com/compare-the-flu-pandemic-of-1918-and-covid-19-with-caution-the-past-is-not-a-prediction-138895" target="_blank">50 million died</a> over the course of three waves.</p><p>It was the combination of a quick return to normal life and a mutation in the flu's genome that made it more deadly that led to the horrific second and third waves.</p><p>Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be much more <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104351" target="_blank">genetically stable</a> than the influenza virus, and thus less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant. That leaves human behavior as the main risk factor.</p><p>Until a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-needs-to-go-right-to-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine-in-12-18-months-136816" target="_blank">vaccine or effective treatment is developed</a>, the tried-and-true public health measures of the last months – <a href="https://theconversation.com/this-simple-model-shows-the-importance-of-wearing-masks-and-social-distancing-140423" target="_blank">social distancing,</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">universal mask wearing</a>, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – are the ways to stop the first wave and thwart a second one. And when there are surges like what is happening now in the U.S., further reopening plans need to be put on hold.</p>
- U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Now No. 1 in World - EcoWatch ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Pass 100,000 - EcoWatch ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 2 Million as All 50 States Start ... ›
By Eoin Higgins
Climate advocates pointed to news Sunday that fracking giant Chesapeake Energy was filing for bankruptcy as further evidence that the fossil fuel industry's collapse is being hastened by the coronavirus pandemic and called for the government to stop propping up businesses in the field.
- Fracking Industry's Propaganda Hypes Shale Gas Production and ... ›
- Another Blow to the Fracking Industry—Chesapeake Energy's ... ›
- Former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon Is Back to ... ›
By Neil King and Gabriel Borrud
Human beings all over the world agreed to strict limitations to their rights when governments made the decision to enter lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis. Many have done it willingly on behalf of the collective. So why can't this same attitude be seen when tackling climate change?
- The Crunch Question on Climate: How Can I Help? - EcoWatch ›
- The Power of Collective Action Gangnam Style - EcoWatch ›
- Scientist Finds Remarkable Way to Connect People Emotionally ... ›