Senate Bill 50 Origination

Senate Bill 50 would prohibit the disposal of brine by deep well injection, by land application, and in association with enhanced recovery. Accordingly, it eliminates the per-barrel injection well fee. It also prohibits the conversion of a well to a use other than its original purpose (for example, converting from an oil and gas production well to an injection well) and establishes criminal penalties for a violation of the bill’s prohibition.

In addition to the chemicals used in the well drilling and fracturing processes, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has noted that radioactive materials have been found in “fairly high concentrations” in liquid waste associated with the oil/gas operations.

Liquid hazardous waste from fracking and shale fuel extraction processes is known to contain toxic levels of contaminants, including unknown quantities of undisclosed chemical additives used in hydraulic fracturing fluid as well as contaminants from sources underground. Benzene, xylene, naphthalene, formaldehyde, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, total dissolved solids, and radioactive material, including radium 226 (at levels that may exceed 300 times permitted industrial effluent discharge levels and 3600 times drinking water standards), are among the known contaminants. Companies engaging in the use of this drilling technique have not fully disclosed chemicals used their concentrations and volume.

The oil and gas industry’s toxic, radioactive waste is legally exempt from federal hazardous waste regulations and important portions of the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act. These toxic fluids are legally designated “non-hazardous” by virtue of these exemptions, but if tested, they would be deemed hazardous and would be required to be disposed of in Class I hazardous waste injection wells.

Ohio’s Class II injection wells are poorly regulated, are not monitored for contaminant migration, and according to ODNR regulation can even be sited in wellhead protection areas. Even the fossil fuel extraction industry’s engineers and scientists acknowledge that all wells eventually fail, many of them within a few years. Class 1 injection wells in Ohio, which are built to stricter standards, have leaked high volumes of toxic substances into groundwater. ODNR has a long history of ignoring repeated, flagrant violations; and many existing Class II wells are old production wells not even built to the current inadequate state standards for injection. Our communities also face significant risk from truck accidents and spills.

Injection wells have caused earthquakes in Ohio with the largest being a 4.0 magnitude in Youngstown, Ohio. Earthquakes potentially associated with injection wells have also occurred in Washington County, Belmont County, Monroe County, Vinton County and Harrison County.

Due to the known and unknown risk factors of the injection of waste, we believe Ohio must stop the practice of injecting this toxic, radioactive waste in our communities.

“There are serious concerns to be addressed regarding the toxic hydraulic fracturing waste being injected into the ground. The toxic chemicals used in these injection wells are said to include radioactive materials from the shale, as well as chemicals from the initial fracking process. These chemicals can flow into underground waters and seep into water aquifers contaminating it and causing harm to nearby wildlife and residents. This bill would ban Class II injection wells, stopping the potentially harmful effects on our state. Current regulations are simply not enough to protect the people from the toxic chemicals being dumped underground on a daily basis.”

Michael J. Skindell

Ohio State Senator