Currently pending before the Ohio General Assembly is Senate Bill 165, which would significantly revise Ohio’s regulation of oil and gas drilling. Senator Tom Niehaus introduced the bill to increase the safety and regulation of drilling in Ohio, including concerns related to drilling in urbanized areas. To address these concerns, SB 165 requires, among other things, compliance with mandated well construction techniques, revises the application process and eligibility requirements, and gives the Chief of the ODNR Division of Mineral Resource Management increased enforcement authority.
Well Construction Requirements
The new well construction requirements were proposed in response to an incident in Bainbridge Township, Geauga County. Due to faulty well construction, gas had infiltrated the aquifer and caused severe damage to one house and impacted twenty water wells. ODNR concluded that the primary cement job on the well production casing was deficient.
SB 165 eliminates all existing statutory provisions related to well construction and states that a well must be constructed in a manner that is approved by the Chief as specified in the permit, using materials that comply with industry standards for the type and depth of the well and the anticipated fluid pressures that are associated with the well. The bill also contains language specifically protecting all underground sources of drinking water. The bill authorizes the Chief to adopt rules that are consistent with the statutory well construction standards, for evaluating the quality of well construction materials and for completing remedial cementing.
Application Process and Eligibility Requirements
SB 165 proposes to revise portions of the law related to application for a permit to drill a well. For example, if the well will be drilled in an urbanized area, the application must contain a sworn statement that the applicant has provided notice by regular mail to the owner of each parcel of real property that is located within 500 feet of the surface location of the well, excluding any parcel of real property that is included in the drilling unit. In addition to terms related to safety, location and fencing, permits issued under the proposed rule will also include terms related to noise mitigation.
Some of the bill’s most significant revisions pertain to the mandatory pooling process. Under the proposed law, an applicant seeking mandatory pooling must pay a $5,000 fee. The bill also prohibits a person from submitting more than five applications for mandatory pooling orders per year unless the Chief approves additional applications.
Chief’s Enforcement Authority
Current law requires the Chief to enforce the Oil and Gas Law and the rules, permits and orders issued pursuant to them. SB 165 takes this one step further and authorizes the Chief to issue a citation to an owner for a violation of any law, rule, permit or order. The citation may be a compliance notice or an administrative order. The Chief may also initiate an enforcement action for a material and substantial violation. If the owner fails to comply with a prior enforcement action, the Chief may issue a suspension order.
This article is intended to provide only a sample of the changes proposed by SB 165. For all the changes proposed please refer to the text of SB 165.