Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order on Tuesday temporarily giving the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) additional power to regulate wastewater injection wells used by oil and natural gas drilling operations.

The executive order, officially known as 2012-09K, gives the chief of the Division of Oil Gas Resources Management, currently Rick Simmers, the authority to enact rules for injection wells. Those powers include requiring additional testing before the wells are drilled and possibly setting a maximum allowable injection pressure (MAIP).

The order also honors the ODNR’s request to amend two sections of the Ohio Administrative Code, specifically rules 1501:9-3-06 and 1501:9-3-07. The changes would give the oil and gas division the right to:

Kasich’s order is to remain in effect for three months, or until early October. For the rules to become permanent, the state requires a public hearing, a comment period and a review by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR), a legislative panel composed of 10 members of the Ohio General Assembly.

“The executive order serves a public good because there’s been a large lag in the issuance of much-needed UIC [underground injection control] permits in the state of Ohio since the events of the last winter in Youngstown,” Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) Executive Vice President Thomas E. Stewart told NGI’s Shale Daily on Wednesday. “Those permits need to get reviewed immediately, and this will probably help facilitate that.”

In March the ODNR issued a 24-page preliminary report that said a dozen small earthquakes in northeastern Ohio may have been caused by the Northstar I Class II injection well owned by Youngstown-based D&L Energy Inc. and operated by Northstar Disposal Services LLC (see Shale Daily, March 12). The well remains offline and depressurized.

“I don’t see this having a huge detrimental effect on industry,” Stewart said. “The constant monitoring of annular pressure on a Class II well, with automatic shutoffs if you exceed your maximum allowable operating pressure, I think those are good ideas. [But] the concept of having to run some geophysics [testing], I don’t think accomplishes much but it adds to the cost. I think that needs to be looked at.”

ODNR had asked D&L to halt operations at Northstar 1, which began operations in December 2010, at the end of 2011 (see Shale Daily, Jan. 5). The ODNR report said the closest known fault system is the Smith Township Fault, which runs in a northwest-southeast direction in Mahoning County. Maps of the fault indicate that it has had recurrent movement throughout geologic time.

According to the Ohio Seismic Network, 12 earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 2.0 have been recorded in the Youngstown area since March 17, 2011, when two quakes — of 2.1 and 2.6 magnitude — were recorded. Additional earthquakes were recorded on Aug. 22 (2.2 magnitude), Aug. 25 (2.4), Sept. 2 (2.2), Sept. 26 (2.6), Sept. 30 (2.7), Oct. 20 (2.3), Nov. 25 (2.2), Dec. 24 (2.7), Dec. 31 (4.0) and Jan. 13, 2012 (2.1).

Last year regulators in Arkansas established a moratorium on wastewater disposal wells in an area of the Fayetteville Shale after similar quake activity was reported there (see Shale Daily, July 29, 2011; March 4, 2011).