March 28, 2017
To: Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR)
From: Buckeye Environmental Network, Center for Health, Environment and Justice, and Frackfree America National Coalition, based in Youngstown, Ohio
RE: Public Comment regarding proposed injection wells to be located in Brookfield, Ohio
For more information: Contact Teresa Mills at 614-539-1471, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jane Spies at 234-201-8007 or e-mail at email@example.com
Buckeye Environmental Network, Center for Health, Environment and Justice, and Frackfree America National Coalition, based in Youngstown, Ohio are hereby calling for Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Chief Simmers to deny the permits submitted by Highland Field Services, LLC, a subsidiary of Seneca Resources, Inc., seeking to locate two injection wells in Brookfield, Ohio.1 This denial of permits must be done to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of residents of Brookfield, Ohio and the entire region which would be adversely impacted if the permits are granted. The region would be exposed to an unacceptable risk of potential irreparable harm if the injection well operation is allowed to begin.
There are precedents set by ODNR in stopping injection wells in the local area. In the following cases, the ODNR Chief must have believed that injection would be too high risk for protecting public health, safety, or the environment. The Khalil injection well in Mahoning County was stopped by ODNR. The Northstar 1 injection well was stopped right before a magnitude 4.0 earthquake.2 Operation of an AWMS injection well in Weathersfield, Ohio has been suspended by ODNR for over two years. The suspensions of the injection well operations were related to the issue of induced seismicity. This was the right thing for ODNR to do in order to protect the public health and safety and the public interest. These were lawful and correct decisions by ODNR.
In fact, in an appellee brief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, dated September 22, 2016 (on the court docket) in the case involving the Weathersfield, Ohio injection well that has been suspended for over two years, the Division wrote:
“Should the Chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (“Chief”) have to wait for a damaging earthquake to hit a community before issuing a chief’s order suspending operations? Of course not. Nonetheless, the implications of Appellant, American Water Management Services, LLC’s (“AWMS”) arguments would lead to this absurd result.”3
According to a local 2012 news report, ODNR Media Relations manager Heidi Hetzel- Evans addressed resolutions related to injection wells. The following quote is from the news
report, “ In regard to these resolutions, Hetzel-Evans previously stated that the ODNR would deny any permit application if the opposing community could provide convincing evidence that health, safety or an environmental resource would be directly threatened by a well.”4
The amount of convincing evidence of unacceptable risks to public health, safety, and well- being posed by these proposed Brookfield, Ohio injection wells is overwhelming. As time goes on, there are even more relevant, scientific studies becoming available on the topic of injection wells and induced seismicity. We believe that every day, as waste fluid injection continues in Trumbull County and the surrounding region, the risk of negative impacts and man-made earthquakes increases.
This continuing injection of large amounts of waste must be legally stopped or northeast Ohio seismicity levels may start to resemble those of parts of Oklahoma where man-made earthquakes linked to disposal wells are rampant and cannot be effectively stopped by regulators despite their best efforts to do so. A strong injection well-related quake occurred in 2011 in Prague, Oklahoma – a magnitude 5.7.5 Pawnee, Oklahoma had a magnitude 5.8 quake which some people say is related to injection.6 There are numerous lawsuits occurring as Oklahoma residents say they are experiencing damage to their homes and other structures, including physical injury in some cases, from the man-made earthquakes.
Furthermore, monitoring earthquakes with seismometers will not stop the earthquakes. This will only let us know that we had a quake, but will not stop any potential damage. Human beings cannot control earthquakes with one hundred percent certainty. Our local homes, buildings, and infrastructure are not built to withstand earthquakes as are homes in California. This fact adds to the risk of potential quake damage. The cost to retrofit buildings or infrastructure to withstand earthquakes would be exorbitant.
The ODNR Chief has the legal authority and the duty to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of our communities being impacted, and potentially impacted, by oil and gas shale development and associated injection wells. According to Ohio law:
“(F) The chief shall issue an order denying a permit if the chief finds that there is a substantial risk that the operation will result in violations of this chapter or rules adopted under it that will present an imminent danger to public health or safety or damage to the environment, provided that where the chief finds that terms or conditions to the permit can reasonably be expected to prevent such violations, the chief shall issue the permit subject to those terms or conditions, including, if applicable, terms and conditions regarding subjects identified in rules adopted under section 1509.03 of the Revised Code. The issuance of a permit shall not be considered an order of the chief.”7
We say that there is absolutely no permit condition that the ODNR Chief can put in the permit that will protect the public from a potential induced earthquake, and potentially, a large, damaging quake. See a quote by Dr. Won-Young Kim in the endnote below.8 Earthquakes
cannot be regulated. One need only look at the experience of Oklahoma where induced seismicity is continuing and has become an enormous concern and negative impact on public health, safety, and their environment. If regulators had the ability to stop the disposal-linked Oklahoma quakes they would have done so by now. Slowing them down is not stopping them. Instead the quakes are continuing in Oklahoma. We must learn from the experiences of those in Oklahoma and other states or countries suffering from injection or fracking-related induced seismicity.
To repeat, the ODNR Chief cannot prevent an earthquake by creating a permit condition. We believe that it is highly probable that more induced seismicity will occur as the volume of injected waste increases over time, as evidenced by the experience of those in Oklahoma who at one time had few quakes and now have many. Since there is an imminent danger to public health, and no permit condition can prevent it in order to protect the public, the Chief must deny the two proposed permits in Brookfield, Ohio.
We say that Ohio, or any state, cannot be used as a toxic waste dump. No one’s community anywhere should be used in this way. Our area is now earthquake-prone, as evidenced by numerous scientific studies, news reports, and documents. Therefore, we say it is highly immoral, reckless, and negligent to permit this waste to be injected into our densely populated communities where structures such as federally designated high hazard dams, schools, family homes, wetlands, parks or forests are located. There is no good or safe way to manage millions of gallons of toxic fracking waste that is constantly being created. Where will it all go? Furthermore, what might be the adverse impact to drinking water as a consequence of potential induced seismicity? We believe the injection wells pose an imminent danger to public health and safety and the environment, and must be legally stopped immediately.
Specifically, the proposed injection wells to be located in Brookfield, Ohio are way too close to family homes and businesses. Residents in this region remember very well the injection well spill that took place in Vienna, Ohio, that destroyed two wetlands and a pond.9 This region, or any region, cannot afford another fiasco like that. The injection-well truck traffic and negative impacts to air and land would be unacceptable if the Brookfield permits are granted and the operation begins. Property values will be negatively impacted. We believe there is a threat to drinking water posed by spills, or potentially, water problems that could be linked to induced seismicity if injection – well related earthquakes were to occur. This is especially so since this area has become prone to induced seismicity. These proposed injection wells in Brookfield, Ohio would not be that far away from other injection well operations, such as the injection well in Vienna, Ohio, also too near family homes, and North Lima, Ohio. What might be the cumulative negative impacts of having so many injection operations so closely located in one region?
The state believes, according to the AWMS court case, that the Weathersfield wells may be located near the same activated fault system as the one that resulted in the Northstar 1 injection
well-linked 2011, magnitude 4.0 earthquake.10 Could the Brookfield, Ohio area be located near the same or perhaps another unknown fault system? No one knows where all of the faults are, therefore, permitting the proposed Brookfield injection wells would be gambling or experimenting while putting public health and safety at risk. Local residents will not and have not given their consent to be used as, in what might be termed, experimental human subjects in a company’s or regulator’s induced earthquake prevention experiment.
Since the magnitude 4.0 Youngstown quake, there have been more cases of induced seismicity in our region, including not only injection well-linked quakes, but also hydraulic fracturing linked quakes in Ohio and Pennsylvania. (Please also see the discussion of the Painesville area magnitude 5.0 quake and Ashtabula injection well earthquakes mentioned in the press release cited below.)11
Some people might say, why worry about small earthquakes that cannot be felt? There are an abundance of reasons to be concerned. Small earthquakes can be harbingers of larger quakes. In the Youngstown Northstar 1 earthquake case, tremors went from magnitude 2.7 up to a 4.0 within one week’s time.12 Also, because injection well induced earthquakes may be shallower, could they be felt differently than natural earthquakes, and potentially cause damage even though they are lower magnitude quakes? (See the remarks of seismologist, Dr. Gail Atkinson, on how hydraulic fracturing related quakes may be felt differently.13) Also, what might be the adverse effects of even small, repeated tremors on buildings or infrastructure?
Has Seneca Resources or ODNR looked at the possibility of mines being located near the proposed well sites in Brookfield? Have they looked at the possibility that the large amount of fracking waste that they are proposing to inject may greatly increase the probability of a large, damaging, quake? Have surface waters been looked at in relation to the proposed wells? Will there be lightning protection on these proposed wells, since it is known, for example, that injection wells can be subject to lightning strikes.14
A man-made earthquake can happen at any time. And, depending on its magnitude, this could become a public health issue not only for Ohio, but also Pennsylvania where induced earthquakes already have occurred linked to fracking. Every day, more and more fracking waste is being injected into Ohio. Each day that passes makes the next man-made earthquake more likely as the volume increases and underground pressure builds and waste pressure migrates. Just as an unstable old roof will not necessarily collapse right away as snow piles up upon it, over time it will reach its tipping point when it will collapse. Are we building up pressure now that will eventually result in a new activated unknown or known fault, or maybe “lubricate” an already activated fault, like that associated with Northstar 1 in Youngstown? We cannot afford to toy with earthquakes whose magnitudes have already reached 4.0 in our immediate area. There has also been induced seismicity in Ashtabula and suspected induced seismicity in the Painesville, Ohio area, years ago, and in other places such Poland, Ohio and the Marietta area,
and elsewhere. Just because there may be no induced seismic activity, yet, does not mean that it won’t happen in the near or distant future.
There are no benefits of these injection wells to the local Brookfield community – only detriments or costs, which would fall to the public to bear if operators are not held accountable for any potential damage done. The immorality and recklessness of even considering locating waste injection wells so close to family homes is astonishing. How can any clear-thinking person think that this is a good idea? It isn't.
Has ODNR scrutinized the track record of the company trying to get permits to inject in Brookfield, Ohio? For example, violations and fines described in a 2014 StateImpact Pennsylvania article are very concerning.15 The community has a right to protect itself from similar potential infractions by any company.
According to the Ohio Constitution, “... All men are, by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety. (1851)16
Ohioans have inalienable rights to protect their lives and their property, and their environmental resources, including their drinking water and air. All have a right to seek and obtain safety. This is exactly what Brookfield, Ohio residents are doing along with surrounding community members who are supporting Brookfield in their opposition to the two proposed injection wells. ODNR must deny the proposed Brookfield, Ohio permits.
The bottom line is: These proposed well permits must be denied by ODNR. The injection wells must not be allowed to operate for reasons described above and more that have not been elaborated upon here. Before Seneca puts any money in this, they and their investors need to understand that this is a bad business investment. It is astonishing, in light of the earthquake- prone nature of this area and the obvious dangers to public health and safety and the environment, that any company would seek to place their operation here, or anywhere, for that matter.
We ask ODNR to please review the following information about local injection wells and earthquakes and induced seismicity at the following link as part of our comment for the public comment period related to the proposed Brookfield, Ohio injection wells. Thank you.
1 “Permits Sought for 2 Injection Wells in Brookfield,” by Dan O’Brien, The Business Journal, February 2, 2017 http://businessjournaldaily.com/permits-sought-for-2-injection-wells-in-brookfield/
2 “Eastern Ohio rattled by 4.0 – magnitude earthquake,” CNN from Susan Candiotti and Ross Levitt, December 31, 2011 http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/31/us/ohio-earthquake/
3 Brief of Appellee, Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, In the Court of Common Pleas Franklin County, Ohio, Case No. 16 CV 006218, September 22, 2016, page 1.
4 “Brookfield objects to some brine injection wells,” by Margaret Thompson, Shale Play, December 27, 2012
5 “5.6 earthquake: 2016 has two of largest four quakes in state history; Saturday temblor matches state record,” by Paighten Harkins, Tulsa World, September 4, 2016, http://www.tulsaworld.com/earthquakes/earthquake-has- two-of-largest-four-quakes-in-state-history/article_2ba346d8-0045-5741-9314-36e042f6aaa5.html
6 “Pawnee Nation Sues Oklahoma Oil Companies in Tribal Court Over Earthquake Damage, by The Associated Press, March 4, 2017, published in The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/04/us/pawnee-nation- oklahoma-oil-earthquake-lawsuit.html?_r=0
7 Ohio Revised Code, LAWriter, Ohio Laws and Rules, http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/1509
8 See a Frackfree Mahoning Valley September 3, 2014, press release at
http://www.ohio.com/blogs/drilling/ohio-utica-shale-1.291290/frackfree-mahoning-valley-calls-for-halt- to-injection-wells-1.519578 “An important excerpt from a journal article discussing the Northstar 1 injection well by Dr. Won-Young Kim follows: “Although we do not know the WSW-ENE extent of the fault(s) in the Youngstown area, it is possible that continued injection of fluid at Northstar 1 well could have triggered potentially large and damaging earthquakes. “ JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH: SOLID EARTH, VOL. 118, 3506–3518, doi:10.1002/jgrb.50247, 2013 “Induced seismicity associated with fluid injection into a deep well in Youngstown, Ohio,”
Won-Young Kim http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jgrb.50247/abstract “
9 “ODNR Orders Kleese to Shut Down 5 Injection Wells,” by Dan O’Brien, April 7, 2015, The Business Journal,
10 Brief of Appellee, Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, In the Court of Common Pleas Franklin County, Ohio, Case No. 16 CV 006218, September 22, 2016, Page 9.
11 To read more about man-made earthquakes and injection wells in our local area and elsewhere please see a Frackfree Mahoning Valley news release dated July 11, 2016 : http://frackfreemahoning.blogspot.com/2016/07/prayer-service-rally-july-12-2016.html
12 Court document, “Appellant Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management’s Reply to AWMS’s Response to Motion for Stay Pending Appeal of the December 23, 3016 Order From the Franklin Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 17-AP-45, February 7, 2017, In the Tenth District Court of Appeals, Franklin County, Ohio, page 3.
13 “Fracking Quakes Pose Added Risks and Require Study, Expert Warns Researchers need more seismic data to understand unique hazards,” by Andrew Nikiforuk, February 2, 2015, The Tyee https://thetyee.ca/News/2015/02/02/Fracking-Quakes-Study-Required/?PageSpeed=noscript
14 [Colorado:] “Wastewater storage tank goes up in flames near Greeley,” by Will C. Holden and Web Staff, April 17, 2015, Fox 31, Denver http://kdvr.com/2015/04/17/report-lightning-strike-sparks-oil-tank-fire-near- greeley-airport/ ; “Vienna seeks injection well aid,” by Virginia Shank, Tribune Chronicle, October 12, 2016, [The following quote addressed the issue of the Vienna, Ohio injection well not being “required to have lightning suppressors on their oil tanks” : “For example, the company installed vapor suppression systems that remove oxygen to decrease the chance of combustion. Also, the tanks the company installed are “low-profile, further mitigating risk,” Heis added.” ] http://www.tribtoday.com/news/local-news/2016/10/vienna-seeks-injection-well- aid/
15 “DEP fined oil and gas companies $2.5 million last year,” by Laura Legere, February 27, 2014, StateImpact Pennsylvania https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2014/02/27/dep-fined-oil-and-gas-companies-2-5-million- last-year/
16 Constitution of the State of Ohio, page 1 of the following PDF: