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Ohio Senate Approves New Fracking Rules

The Ohio Senate approved new rules governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on Tuesday, part of a lengthy energy bill that makes changes throughout the Ohio Revised Code.

The bill, also known as Substitute SB 315, enjoyed bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled Senate, passing 27-6. The measure now moves on to the Ohio House of Representatives, which is also controlled by Republicans.

Under the amended bill, operators would be required to identify every water source they could potentially use during their operations and provide an estimate of the rate and volume of water withdrawals. If the operators elect to use recycled water, they must submit an estimate of how much recycled water they will use.

Operators would also be required to sample water wells within 300 feet of proposed drilling operations in urban areas, and within 1,500 feet of new horizontal wells. Applicants for horizontal well permits must also carry at least $5 million in liability insurance coverage, and must enter into road maintenance and use agreements with the appropriate county, township or municipality.

The bill would require operators to identify each additive used and provide a list of the chemicals intentionally used in fracking, but would not be required to disclose their precise formulation or list any chemicals that occur incidentally or in trace amounts. In the event of an emergency, medical personnel could receive the formulation information if necessary for treatment, but would be required to keep the information confidential.

"It's a big improvement over what was originally a very flawed bill," Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday. "The frac disclosure stuff is very similar to Colorado, except SB 315 also requires disclosure of materials used while cutting a surface hole."

Stewart said the original version of SB 315 would have required disclosure of the fracking fluid's formulation as well. "It was way beyond what anybody has ever done in any other state," he said. "It did not protect trade secrets, which meant that we would have had mediocre technology in Ohio. But all that got straightened around."

Substitute SB 315 would also allow the chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Oil and Gas Division to enter into cooperative agreements with other state agencies for advice and consultation on oil and gas issues. The bill also sets a maximum of 60 days for any time extension request for reports, test results, fees or other documents.

In a written statement, Gov. John Kasich, a proponent of Marcellus and Utica shale development, said he was pleased that the Senate passed the bill.

"The policy improvements made in this bill are significant," the Republican governor said Tuesday. "I appreciate the senators from both sides of the aisle who worked with us to ensure Ohio approaches energy production and consumption in a safe and responsible way, while also giving families and job creators access to more affordable energy. I urge the House of Representatives to follow the lead of their counterparts in the Senate and move quickly to pass this legislation so we can begin implementing these improvements as soon as possible."

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