Ohio's Permitting Standards Protect From Some of the Problems Experienced Elsewhere

Methane monitoring in Pennsylvania
From StateImpact Pennsylvania:
Two years later, almost to the day, it was some­thing state reg­u­la­tors don’t ask about on the per­mit appli­ca­tion that came back to cause prob­lems at the Guin­don well. A 30-foot geyser of water and nat­ural gas erupted out of the ground. Methane bub­bled from nearby streams; the water well of a nearby cabin over­flowed; and Shell asked the few peo­ple liv­ing in the area to tem­porar­ily evac­u­ate their homes.
What hap­pened? The drilling oper­a­tion got too close to an old gas well, drilled in 1932. The modern-day well likely shook loose methane gas deep under­ground. That gas then rushed to the sur­face through the clear path­way cre­ated by the 80-year-old well.
The old well — known as the “But­ters well” because it was drilled on prop­erty owned by Mr. W.J. But­ters — is one of an esti­mated 200,000 aban­doned oil and gas wells dot­ting Penn­syl­va­nia. While nobody knows where the vast major­ity of those wells are, the But­ters well was not one of the hid­den holes: Shell knew the well was there. A spokes­woman says the com­pany thought the oper­a­tion had been prop­erly plugged. Clearly, it wasn’t.
As Shell’s sum­mer geyser demon­strated, drilling near aban­doned wells can be dan­ger­ous. Yet for all the things Penn­syl­va­nia requires com­pa­nies to sur­vey before they drill — there are a dozen items on the check­list — aban­doned wells are not one of them. No Penn­syl­va­nia laws or reg­u­la­tions bar energy com­pa­nies from drilling within a cer­tain dis­tance of an unplugged well. Addi­tion­ally, drillers aren’t required to search for or plug aban­doned wells within a cer­tain radius of their site.
Penn­syl­va­nia isn’t alone in this omis­sion. A num­ber of other states, includ­ing Texas, Okla­homa and West Vir­ginia, have both an aban­doned well prob­lem at the same time that they’re see­ing a shale drilling boom. Of those states, only Ohio con­sid­ers the pres­ence of these dan­ger­ous path­ways when decid­ing whether or not to approve a per­mit. Essen­tially, most of the states are leav­ing the ques­tion of how to han­dle aban­doned wells up to the drilling companies.
So as we read about some of the things that have happened as gas drilling occurred in other areas, it's good to remember that the regulations of each state are unique.  And, at least in this one instance, Ohio regulations are more stringent and offer some protection from the sort of thing experienced in PA's Union Township.

Read the rest of the article from StateImpact here.

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