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Friends of Big Creek

Ohio urban forests are at risk. Healthy urban forests are the ultimate in green infrastructure—the most extensive and least expensive way to help attenuate stormwater runoff, increase property values and protect streams.

The Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan (RAP), with support from the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District, Friends of Big Creek and the Ohio Environmental Education Fund, is hosting a Forest Forum with the goal of enhancing forest cover in Big Creek watershed communities (Cleveland, Brooklyn, Linndale, Parma, Parma Heights, Brook Park, North Royalton). The event is Jan. 12 from 2 - 5 pm and 5:30 - 8:30 pm at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo administration building auditorium (next to Zoo’s main entrance) at 3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland 44109.

Participants will:
• receive updated maps of their city’s forest cover and streams.
• help identify priority restoration sites to target funding for restoration.
• have an opportunity to send a representative from their city to Tree Commission Academy.
• receive and inventory of their city’s forest, tree protection, mitigation and restoration ordinances and policies, and be eligible for ongoing assistance in updating and implementing them.
• be eligible for funding and pilot restoration projects in their community.

For more information, click here. To RSVP and ensure enough materials will be provided for your city, email Jane Goodman  or call 216-241-2414 x610.

Ohio Environmental Council

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.

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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

Ohio Environmental Council

The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and partner organizations, including the Buckeye Forest Council and the Network for Oil & Gas Accountability and Protection, are having an event on Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at Middlefield Library at 16167 East High St. in Middlefield, Ohio, to call attention to the first deep-shale gas well to use horizontal hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, in Geauga County on the headwaters of the Grand River.

The Grand River is a wild and scenic river, home to steelhead trout and a critical source of water for Lake Erie. However, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) series of new drilling rules keep this watershed and others under great risk.

The event will:
• highlight ways in which industry is outperforming ODNR rules, leading many to question whether industry will backslide once regulations are in place.
• question the assumption that Ohio’s oil and gas regulations are some of the strongest in the country (as compared to other states).
• expose the radioactive waste loophole in the current regulations.
• outline ways in which ODNR should strengthen rules to better protect the health of all Ohioans.

Immediately following the meeting, a caravan will head to Chickagami Park at 17957 Tavern Rd., Route 168 in Parkman, Ohio, which is on the shores of the Grand River, within two miles of the fracking well site.

For more information click here.

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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.

Ohio Environmental Law Center

by Trent A. Dougherty

On Dec. 24, the Buckeye Forest Council, Ohio Environmental Council, Center for Health, Environment and Justice and Sierra Club, for the second time in a month, submitted legal and technical comments to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) concerning the regulation of deep shale oil and gas drilling. ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management proposed amendments to 22 of its existing rules, which have been drafted pursuant to Senate Bill 165, effective June 30, 2010 and to complete the required five-year review of these rules. The public comment period on these rules ended on Dec. 12, 2011.

ODNR’s proposed modifications to its rules touch on a variety of issues. The coalition of environmental groups, along with a team of technical experts, responded to the draft rule amendments with a number of suggestions to improve the proposed rules. The primary concern for the coalition focused on recent reports of a loophole in Ohio law that allows for radioactive material to be disposed of in solid waste landfills. Many landfills across Ohio ultimately dispose of their leachate at public waste-water treatment plants, which means the radioactive waste may appear in the state’s waters.

The coalition urged ODNR to:

• Regulate radioactive waste products that result from shale drilling, including drill cuttings
• Enact a number of changes to adequately protect our water resources
• Clarify the “due diligence” time period for the completion of drilling
• Prohibit open-pit storage of waste and flowback products, except for the limited purpose of spill prevention
• Adopt more rigorous protections related to the surface application of brine water

These are just the latest of many more rule packages to come. However, there are nearly 100 deep shale fracking wells permitted under old and less protective rules. Furthermore, with the previous ODNR well construction rules, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s air permit (and upcoming wetland impact permit) and ODNR rule packages set for early 2012 drafts (which include spill prevention and pipelines), it is becoming clear that even ODNR believes that the rules they permitted are not as protective as they should be.

For more information, click here. To read the joint comments, click here.

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