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The 2015 volume of liquid drilling wastes going into Ohio’s injection wells keeps growing

Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal. Teresa Mills, one of CHEJ’s own, provided vital data for recording the amount and impact of liquid drilling wastes being injected underground in Ohio.  
Ohio is continuing to rewrite the record book for liquid drilling wastes being injected into underground rock formations: The 2015 injection total keeps ­growing.
That’s because additional fees are being paid in 2016 by waste haulers to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas Resource Management.
That 2015 volume was reported as 28.8 million 42-gallon barrels in March. Now it is up to 31.4 million barrels, as of May 20.
That’s enough to fill nearly 2,000 Olympic-size swimming pools with the salty wastes from shale drilling.
That means that Ohio’s injection volume in 2015 grew by nearly 42.8 percent from 2014. The earlier reported percent was 27.2 percent.
In 2014, 22.0 million barrels were disposed of in Ohio’s injection wells. That total was 16.3 million barrels in 2013.
The updated totals include 16.6 million gallons from Ohio and 14.8 million gallons from other states.
Injecting the wastes has been linked to small earthquakes in Ohio and other states, and critics say injecting wastes into underground rock formations poses a threat to groundwater.
Industry and state officials say injection wells are a safe disposal method and the growing volume of waste is simply evidence of the Utica and Marcellus shale booms in Ohio and surrounding states.
The new data come from Columbus activist Teresa Mills with the Virginia-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice — who regularly analyzes state financial data to determine the injection volumes. ODNR does not release injection volumes but has never disputed Mills’ totals.
Athens County is No. 1 with 4 million barrels injected in 2015. Second is Coshocton County with 3.7 million barrels and third is Guernsey County with 3.0 million barrels.
The rest of Top 10 counties are: Tuscarawas, 2.9 million, Muskingum, 2.8 million; Washington, 2.6 million; Portage, 2.1 million; Trumbull, 2.0 million; Meigs, 1.6 million and Ashtabula, 1.3 million. Stark County is No. 12 with 577,369 barrels.
The drilling of new wells in Ohio’s Utica Shale has slowed because of low commodity prices, but production from already drilled wells is continuing to grow and that’s what has triggered the big increase in Ohio drilling wastes, state officials said.
Such a big increase in Ohio injection volumes is troubling to activists and local communities, Mills said.
Efforts by Northeast Ohio county commissioners and the grass-roots Concerned Citizens Ohio in 2015 to win support for a proposed statewide moratorium on new injection wells failed because of lack of support.
Ohio has 214 active injection wells. Much of the out-of-state liquids coming into Ohio originate in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Ohio can do little to block out-of-state wastes because they are protected as interstate commerce by the U.S. Constitution.
To read the original article click here

Backyard Talk

TSCA Reform: Is It Enough?

On Tuesday in a vote of 403-12 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to update the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, named after a former democratic senator from New Jersey who dedicated much of his life to TSCA reform, is a “compromise bill” designed to appease industry and environmental groups alike. The bill is also a compromise between the House and the Senate who came up with separate TSCA reform bills and were forced to combine them. The Senate’s vote is still pending, and will likely happen in the next few weeks. White House correspondents have said President Obama supports the bill and will sign it into law pending its passing in the Senate.
The original TSCA was meant as a way for EPA to evaluate the toxicity of chemicals and regulate them if they posed a threat to human or environmental health. However, TSCA is full of holes and red tape that have actually made it more difficult for EPA to regulate chemicals. The 1976 TSCA does not require industry to get safety approval before beginning the sale of a product and only allows EPA a certain amount of time to evaluate the product. Additionally, a counterintuitive measure of TSCA required EPA to provide proof of potential harm for a chemical before beginning to evaluate the harmfulness of the chemical. Worst of all, the original TSCA legislation required the EPA to consider the cost of enforcing regulations when evaluating chemicals. These restrictions meant that EPA could not or did not take sufficient regulatory action, and when it did, courts used TSCA to overturn their rules (including the asbestos regulations). Consequently, only about 200 chemicals have been evaluated since TSCA first passed, while the New York Times estimates about 64,000 chemicals are currently left unregulated.
The current TSCA reform bill aims to address the problems in the 1976 law. It requires EPA to test chemicals regularly, working on 20 chemical reviews at one time. It also ensures that EPA focus on chemicals that are more likely to harm vulnerable populations (children, workers, pregnant women, low income communities) and chemicals that could easily pollute drinking water. EPA will evaluate what it perceives as the most dangerous chemicals first, but industry can pay to have their chemicals evaluated out of order (useful if they want to begin selling new products). Industry will also contribute $25 million total each year to help fund the EPA evaluations. The rest of the funding will come from federal allocation of the budget. Finally, the TSCA reform bill also includes a requirement to find ways to reduce animal testing and a requirement to evaluate chemicals linked to cancer clusters (see Trevor’s Law).
However, despite the numerous improvements to TSCA, the reform bill is also somewhat problematic. The section that most concerns environmental activists and other critics explains that EPA regulations will preempt those set by states. While any state regulations enacted on or before April 22 will be upheld, EPA regulations will apply to chemicals evaluated after April 22nd. Proponents of the bill argue that this section addresses the patchwork of enforcement by state and that it will improve interstate commerce. However, this could mean that states with traditionally strict chemical safety measures like California could see their regulations watered down. States are permitted to request waivers from EPA, but EPA takes full responsibility for the nationwide evaluation of chemicals, even blocking states from continuing to evaluate chemicals the EPA is researching. This statute gives EPA an enormous amount of power, even allowing EPA to control our exposure levels. Even now EPA allows for higher exposure levels of some chemicals than do states. Are we sure we’re ready to trust them so completely? Federal safeguards such as those preventing chemical exposure should be a minimum, not a maximum. Or as Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said when asked about the bill, “[F]ederal chemical regulations should be a floor, not a ceiling.” EPA should set the standards, but states should be free to make them more stringent in order to better protect the health of their residents.