Ohio governor imposes new deep-injection rules

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday issued an executive order that immediately imposed new state regulations on deep-injection wells used to dispose of chemically-laced wastewater from oil and gas drilling.

The directive gives the Ohio Department of Natural Resources temporary authority to implement a list of rules announced after a series of Youngstown area earthquakes was tied to one such deep well.

The official order signed by Kasich says the regulations will provide the greatest degree of citizen protection possible without causing irreparable harm to an important industry.

Under the order, the chief of the division of oil and gas resources management will have authority to order preliminary tests at proposed well sites, prevent drilling where tests fail, and limit injection pressure. The state also can order installation of automatic shutoff valves and monitor for leakage.

ODNR spokesman Carlo LoParo said the order will not affect a moratorium Kasich placed on deep injection wells surrounding the epicenter of the quakes. The moratorium halted regional disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas or oil and other forms of drilling.

The Youngstown well had back-to-back earthquakes on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve that grabbed widespread public attention. It was closed after the second quake reached a 4.0 magnitude.

D&L Energy in Youngstown, the well's operator in northeast Ohio, sought state permission in February to re-open the shuttered well to conduct independent research to prove the well didn't cause the quakes. But as of April, it had not received the state clearance it said was necessary. LoParo said at the time that the state couldn't approve the request because of the moratorium in place.

Kasich's order is effective for 90 days, which will allow lawmakers time to make rules permanent.

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