Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed an energy bill that enjoyed bipartisan support in the General Assembly and creates new rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
Substitute SB 315 calls for regulatory changes within five state agencies: the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), the Department of Commerce and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
"We've spent a considerable amount of time researching and learning from activity in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Arkansas, Texas and Colorado," ODNR Director James Zehringer said Monday. "Our colleagues in those states shared with us a number of important 'lessons learned.'
"The bill [Kasich signed] into law today is a result of combining that careful collaboration with Ohio's already strong regulatory foundation. We have built upon the positive aspects of what others have done and sought to avoid the growing pains they experienced."
SB 315 strengthens rules for the disposal of wastewater through injection wells and calls for operators that violate safety and environmental laws to face mandatory daily fines. Operators will also be required to:
"These tough new requirements send a strong and positive message to those with concerns about Ohio's ability to regulate the shale industry," Zehringer said. "We have learned from the shortcomings and successes of other states. And we will safeguard our people and environment by providing this expanding industry with strong and clear rules for conducting business in Ohio."
Ohio officials said SB 315's requirements will work in tandem with a comprehensive set of well construction rules that were agreed to by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review on May 7 (see Shale Daily, May 14).
"When combined with recently approved well construction standards, which are highly protective of groundwater and the environment, Ohio has one of the most stringently regulated oil and gas industries in the nation," Zehringer said.
Under SB 315, the Ohio EPA will be tasked with streamlining the permitting process for oil and natural gas drilling, shortening the wait time from months to days. The agency will also look into new technologies for treating and recycling wastewater from drilling operations in an effort to conserve water and reduce the state's reliance on injection wells for disposal.
SB 315 also calls for ODOT to create a new model road use agreement that would serve as a template for counties and townships to use with oil and gas companies. The agreement would spell out what roads will be used, how they will be maintained and who will pay for their maintenance.
The law also directs PUCO's Pipeline Safety Division to update regulations for the construction, inspection and safety of new natural gas pipelines, and the Commerce Department to consolidate and streamline its construction and occupancy review process for natural gas processing facilities.
SB 315 passed the Ohio House of Representatives (73-19) on May 24, the House Public Utilities Committee (14-8) on May 23 and the state Senate (27-6) on May 15 (see Shale Daily, May 29; May 24; May 17).