State Says NE Ohio Well Linked to Earthquakes has Plan to Reopen

October 25, 2018

The state has suggested that a shuttered injection well linked to two small earthquakes in northeast Ohio could resume operations if the owner submits an acceptable plan.

The Ohio Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management urged the Ohio Supreme Court in an Oct. 11 filing not to hear American Water Management Services’ appeal of a lower court decision regarding the company’s Weathersfield Township Well No. 2, near Youngstown, The Vindicator in Youngstown reports.

The well pumped brine wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations into the earth. Earthquakes were detected below ground in July and August of 2014. On the day of the well’s first earthquake in July 2014, the company had started injecting about 2,000 barrels per day, and then increased the volume to 5,500 barrels.

The division, a part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, suspended well operations. The company owned by Howland-based Avalon Holdings has argued the state abused its discretion in shutting down the well.

The case led to appeals to a state oil and gas commission, a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge, and eventually the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus, which affirmed the state’s position.

The division told the Supreme Court justices in its Oct. 11 filing that the case is “routine” and doesn’t present issues of statewide interest. Regulators said a process exists for re-opening the well if the company submits a comprehensive plan for safely restarting it.

The filing also said Ohio no longer plans to develop statewide injection well guidelines but will use a “case by case approach.”

The state’s filing said the well’s operations were “likely responsible for two earthquakes of increasing severity in an urban area populated by schools, residences, businesses and a fire department.”

It said the ODNR Division of Oil & Gas “believed the continued operation of AWMS’s injection wells could result in higher-magnitude earthquakes,” so the division suspended operations. Both earthquakes were too small to be felt by humans, earlier documents have said. Another 20 smaller “seismic events” also took place near the wells, the filing added.

The judgment won by the state in the 10th District was dubbed “alarming” by American Water Management Services. The company’s attorney, former Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas, wrote that the court lacked authority under law to take the action it did.

“Left to stand, the Court of Appeals Decision and judgment might very well lead to exercise of power the results of which cannot even be imagined,” he stated in the company’s September filing asking for the Supreme Court review.

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