Tuesday, September 9, 2014

State Touts Increased Shale Production; Environmentalists Fight Proposed Pipeline & Coal Permitting Changes

Horizontally fractured wells in Ohio produced more gas in the last three months than production from all of the wells in the state during 2012, the Department of Natural Resources
announced Monday.  Ohio's horizontal shale wells produced 2.47 million barrels of oil and 88.67 billion cubic feet of natural gas during the second quarter of 2014, according to ODNR's latest tally.  The quarterly report comes two months after ODNR lauded a spike in production during 2013, when natural gas output from the Utica Shale doubled 2012 totals. Of the 562 wells in the report, 504 reported production results with the remaining 58 still waiting on pipeline infrastructure.  For the producing wells, the average amount of oil produced was 4,895 barrels and 175,939 Mcf of natural gas.  The highest producing oil well was the Antero Resources "Myron" well in Noble County at 78,309 barrels of oil in 91 days of production. The highest producing natural gas well was the Hall Drilling "Hercher North" well in Monroe County at 1.4 billion cubic feet during 91 days of production.

Water Quality: The Ohio Environmental Council decried the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's proposed changes to the nationwide 401 water quality certification process for pipeline and coal mining activities that impact wetlands and streams.  "Per Ohio EPA's proposal, many oil and gas pipelines and most coal remining projects will now be approved under Nationwide Permits with no state water quality review, and will result in serious irreversible water quality impacts statewide," OEC attorney Nathan Johnson said in written testimony provided during a recent hearing on the proposal.  OEPA has said the proposal would streamline the 401 certification process to make it more efficient. The proposed changes would eliminate certain state environmental review thresholds for pipelines and coal surface "remining" projects that span wetlands and streams that are already weaker than those of West Virginia and Kentucky, Mr. Johnson said.  "Even more projects will avoid requirements for impact avoidance and minimization. Ohio EPA is also surrendering state oversight and enforcement authority over the mitigation of pipelines and mining impacts," he said.  Mr. Johnson also questioned the coal industry's influence on the proposal, noting emails obtained through public records requests show likely coordination with the Ohio Coal Association.

Christian Palich, the Coal Association's manager of government affairs, said the proposed changes would make the 401 certification process for remining activities more consistent with a similar federal permitting process through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Moreover, the proposed changes would apply regulations to remining in old surface mines that were mined before federal Clean Water Act projections took effect, he said. "Every project will benefit water quality because we are taking pre-law mining areas and lifting the hydrology."

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