COLUMBUS, OH – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently released a report on Ohio’s Class II Underground Injection Control (UIC) program and found that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) regulatory program is of “good quality” and continues to provide strong protections for Ohio’s underground sources of drinking water (USDW).
“We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. EPA in reviewing our program and are pleased that they found what we have long believed, that Ohio has a regulatory structure that is effective and providing the necessary protections for our citizens and the environment,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “The report shows that our extensive investment in the Class II program has enhanced protections for Ohioans, the environment and our underground drinking water resources, but there is always room for improvement so we will continue work to strengthen those protections.”
ODNR is among the first states in the nation that has the authority to require seismic monitoring at Class II injection wells and a leader in national conversations on induced seismicity. As oil and natural gas production continues to set records in Ohio, ODNR is committed to exceeding federal expectations and regulations to ensure that brine is properly disposed of in a manner that ensures the protection of our groundwater and natural resources.
“Ohio is at the forefront of regulating Class II injection wells and is continuously advancing regulations of the UIC program,” said Groundwater Protection Council Executive Director Mike Paque. “ODNR’s ongoing efforts provide the necessary protections to help ensure that Ohio’s underground drinking water resources are safe.”
The U.S. EPA report states that the ODNR UIC program is, “strong in several areas including permitting, inspections and resolving violations found during inspections.” EPA’s review analyzed how the department permits, inspects, tests, restricts and monitors Class II wells. Notably, the report identified and praised recent program updates stating, “Changes to the program enhance rather than reduce the effectiveness of the program.” Recent program improvements include expanded public comment periods, required continuous pressure monitoring at injection wells, installation of seismic monitoring equipment and increased program staffing and funding.
The report recognized the important work that is being done in the field every day to help ensure well safety stating, “ODNR witnessed 100 percent of initial mechanical integrity tests since 1983…ODNR’s high inspection presence is a key component for a program that relies in part on inspections to ensure ongoing mechanical integrity of Class II wells. ODNR has strengthened its field inspections by adding staff inspectors whose time is fully dedicated to UIC inspections.” Presently, ODNR inspectors are second only to North Dakota in the number of inspections that are being performed each year.
The U.S. EPA found that ODNR was meeting or exceeding federal requirements in 17 of the 20 criteria reviewed. The suggested program enhancements recommended in the report are for select areas of the program including storing more operator information and closing operator reporting gaps. ODNR has already begun taking steps to remedy these matters, as all production and disposal operator files are stored in the Risk Based Database Management System.
Overall, ODNR is pleased that the U.S. EPA review of Ohio’s Class II Injection Well Program indicates that not only do Ohio’s regulations meet the standards set by the U.S. EPA, but in many instances exceed all expectations in inspections, violation resolutions, permitting requirements, safety regulations and other requirements. ODNR’s ongoing efforts will be to continue to provide the proper protections for Ohioans and the environment while creating a regulatory structure that allows for economic growth.